It’s statement time for Dolphins against Patriots

What better way to underline the dawning of a new day in the AFC East than by eliminating the New England Patriots from playoff contention? I mean how many times over the years have the Patriots done that to the Dolphins? It’s time for a role reversal, don’t you think?

With three games left, the Dolphins are at 8-5 and their immediate playoff future is totally in their hands. Win out and they are in. Win two out of three and the odds are greatly reduced. But it’s got to start Sunday against the Patriots. This is as close to a must win as the Dolphins have had this season.

The Patriots are 6-7 and hanging perilously to their playoff lives. It’s possible they will be eliminated even with a victory over the Dolphins given all the teams in the AFC with eight or more wins. But what the Dolphins can do on Sunday is eliminate any semblance of hope the Patriots might have had.

And wouldn’t that be sweet?

I see the Dolphins winning this game the same way they have won so many other games this season. With a strong defensive effort, probably punctuated by a few forced turnovers. With some difference-making plays on special teams. And with Tua being Tua, which means enough positive plays and third down conversions, even with an injury-depleted receiving corps, to seize the day. I know the Patriots have had unreal success against rookie quarterbacks since Bill Belichick arrived, and that’s a concern. But Tua is embracing this opportunity and you get the feeling he’ll figure it out.

Having said that, the Patriots defense is solid, by far the strength of their team. That should keep the game close, the Dolphins needing to find enough firepower on offense to replace, among others, tight end Mike Gesicki, who caught two touchdown passes against the Chiefs before leaving with a shoulder injury.

It’s strange to see the Patriots sitting there at 6-7, struggling so badly on offense, trying to make it work with a running quarterback in Cam Newton who has been consistently inconsistent this season. But the Dolphins lost to the Patriots in the season-opener so they are well aware of what needs to be done.

Know this, though: This is a far better, far more confident Dolphins’ team than the one that visited New England on the second Sunday of September, losing by 10 points, which so far has been their most lopsided loss of the season.

There is no need mincing words. The Dolphins need to win this game. With the final two games on the road, at the Raiders and Bills, the playoff prospects will be reduced significantly with a loss.

But I don’t see that happening. This is no longer yesterday’s Patriots and the standings in the AFC East clearly bear that out.

The Dolphins will win this game, I’m saying 23-14, and will secure the first, of what I believe will be many, winning seasons under Brian Flores.

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