The New England vs. Miami rivalry gets buried in all the NE vs. Indy (Brady vs. Manning) hype, but it has been one of the "healthiest" around with a 10-8 record starting with the 2000 season. To what could you attribute this to? Do we "know" each other that well? What do you foresee for 2009?
You're 100% right. For some reason, the great Dolphins/Patriots rivalry gets overlooked. The obvious reason for that would probably be the perception that the Dolphins haven't exactly been a competitive team from 2004 to 2007, sporting a 20-44 record over that span. But outside of the '07 season - when the Dolphins were at their absolute worst and the Pats at their absolute best - Miami always managed to win one of the two games against NE each season. I think back to '06 when Jason Taylor and the defense pitched a shutout. And even in 2004, with the Dolphins sporting a 2-11 record, the Fins managed to win a classic Monday Night game over the 12-1 Pats.
So why do these two always seem to play close games even when one team looks far superior to the other? I'd say familiarity is part of it. I also think that consistency - having some of the same key players on both teams for a long period of time - really plays a role as well. The Dolphins, throughout their struggles prior to '08, had guys like Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas around - which fuels the rivalry and probably gets their teammates "up" for the game, too.
As far as the 2009 installment of this rivalry, I'd say that a split of the two games is probably likely. I know Patriot fans might think they will cruise by Miami following the return of Tom Brady. But the Dolphins got better in the offseason as well. Their offensive line is improved, their secondary is improved, and their pass-rush is improved - highlighted by Brady's favorite player: Jason Taylor.
I will say, though, that if I was told I had to bet my life on one of the teams to sweep the two games in '09, I'd have to reluctantly bet on the Pats. I think there's a better chance of New England taking both games than Miami. But honestly, I'd be surprised if the Dolphins didn't get one of the two.
I think Matty I brings up a good point about familiarity and having key players on both teams for the last several years. These guys know each other quite well and that makes for some good football. A big thanks to Matty I for his answer. Head over to The Phinsider where I discuss the return of Mr. Brady.