Yes, the loss to the Dolphins stings. Any loss does. However, following the aftermath, the task at hand is quite simple. All the Patriots have to do is win six games in a row and they will be World Champions. Again.
All things considered, the loss to the Dolphins only delayed the inevitable clinching of the AFC East. It really had no other ill effect on the potential outcome of the regular season. Had the Patriots won, they would have squared off with the Steelers for the top seed in the AFC. They didn’t win, however, they are still set to square off with the Steelers with first place on the line. With just two games remaining after the fact, whoever wins will likely hold on to the top seed as the regular season ends.
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Sunday against Pittsburgh is the Patriots final road game of the season. Since coming out of the bye week, the Patriots have endured a grueling stretch of games on the road. To their credit, they maintained their excellence and ultimately won 14 games in-a-row on the road, dating back to the final game of 2015. Coincidently, that loss came against these very Dolphins that ended the streak.
Historically, Tom Brady and the Patriots have dominated the Steelers. It doesn’t really matter where the game takes place either. The outcome is generally the same. The same can be said about the Patriots traveling to Miami. Most people that have spent any time following the Patriots for the past two decades look at the Dolphins loss as a yearly tradition. No matter where the teams are in the standings when the Patriots travel to Miami, all bets are off. A prime example of this is the 2004 season. The Patriots came into Pro Player Stadium with a 12-1 record and suffered a humiliating loss to the 2-11 Dolphins. A few short months later, they were hoisting their third Lombardi in four seasons. Sound familiar?
With that said, the depleted defensive depth could pose a serious problem against the Steelers explosive offense. However, if the Patriots come away from Heinz Field the victors on Sunday, then they could potentially spend the next six weeks at home— a nice remedy for ailing bodies. Then, the final road would be a date with the NFC Champions in Minnesota. After winning eight games in a row, winning another six doesn’t seem too tall of a task for the perennial championship contenders. Especially if they are doing most of that from the confines of Gillette Stadium.
The Steelers represent the biggest challenge for the Patriots the entire regular season. In fact, it is very likely they meet again before the 2017 season comes to a close. Most feel that the two teams are on a collision course for another AFC Championship Game showdown. It all starts on Sunday.
Six games. Six wins. Sixth championship.