Here is some bad news for the Miami Dolphins: In a playoff-or-bust year for many in the organization, they could have the reigning Super Bowl champs in their division in 2015.
The New England Patriots steamrolled the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, Sunday to advance to Super Bowl XLIX. New England will face the Seattle Seahawks. At the very least, Miami will have the defending AFC champions in its division.
But there are some things the Dolphins can learn from the Patriots' latest Super Bowl run. Here are several thoughts:
Patriots save best for last: New England is distinctly opposite of Miami in that the Patriots annually save their best football for the end of the season. New England finds ways to get better throughout the year. Then, the team is peaking at the right time for the postseason. The Dolphins, meanwhile, start the season well and play their worst football down the stretch. They have December collapses in back-to-back seasons.
Quarterback greatness and consistency: Tom Brady played his ninth AFC title game Sunday. That is an astounding figure and a show of greatness through consistency. Brady consistently gives New England a chance nearly every year and broke through six times to play in Super Bowls. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is far from that level but must begin to close the gap to give Miami a chance.
Staying multiple on offense: The Patriots don’t have a built-in identity offensively other than they play smart football at a good tempo. But New England is strong enough in most areas that it is able to do whatever it takes week to week to exploit weaknesses in the defense. The Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens last week by passing the football against Baltimore’s thin secondary. New England beat the Colts Sunday by pounding the football with running back LeGarrette Blount (148 rushing yards, three touchdowns) to expose Indianapolis’ undersized front seven. The Dolphins could learn how to stay multiple and flexible offensively to win late in the year.
The Dolphins split with the Patriots the past two seasons. So there is progress on that front. But Miami doesn’t have nearly the level of consistency it takes to be a contender. The Dolphins don’t have to look far for the best example within the division.