While the New England Patriots have already locked up their spot in the playoffs, their upcoming opponent will spend the postseason at home. The Miami Dolphins were eliminated last week after dropping their game in Tennessee — a loss that made the Patriots’ return to the tournament official.
From that perspective, it is easy to label this week’s game between the Patriots and Dolphins as a relatively meaningless affair. Win or loss, New England already knows that it will play a wild card game one week later. The Dolphins, meanwhile, will be in offseason mode once the final whistle is blown.
So, how do the Patriots plan to approach a game like this?
“To try to just stay on track with what we’ve been doing,” head coach Bill Belichick said during a media conference call on Wednesday. “I think when we’ve had good weeks of preparation — good preparation, practice, energy into the game, mindset, however all that comes together — we’ve been a lot better than when we haven’t. We’ll just try to build that consistency and it’s a good opportunity.”
The Patriots are entering the game coming off a dominant win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, but with plenty of questions about their ability to beat playoff-caliber opposition. Before blowing out the Jaguars with a final score of 50-10, they lost back-to-back games against the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills.
Miami is somewhere in the middle of that spectrum — at 8-8 they are currently the 10th ranked team in the AFC. Belichick, however, knows that the matchup gives his team a chance to gain some additional momentum heading into the playoffs.
“Obviously, Miami’s a good football team. We know them well, they know us well. So, that’s good,” he said. “We haven’t played each other all year, but it’s been, overall, a lot of familiarity between those two teams. This will be a good opportunity for us to really hone in on our fundamentals, our execution, our communication. Worry about next week next week.”
Based on Belichick’s statements it seems as if the Patriots will not treat their game against Miami any differently from others this season. Quite the opposite, actually: they see it as another building block for their postseason run.