There may never be an ideal time to play against the New England Patriots.
And Week 1 might be the worst time of all.
The most recent time the Patriots were topped in Week 1, gas prices were about $1.70 per gallon on average nationally, Barack Obama was in the Illinois Senate and list of names on the Miami Dolphins' all-time starting quarterback list was 14 people shorter than it is now.
"When you play a team like the Patriots," Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said, "it takes the whole team."
Clearly, Miami understands the challenge. The Dolphins — with a much-anticipated new-look offense — open their season at home Sunday against New England, the perennial AFC East favorite and a team that has started 1-0 in each of the past 10 seasons.
"There's not much more you could ask for than to have such a great opportunity," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "The Dolphins, we always play them tough, we always have a battle on our hands, especially when we play down there. That's really what we expect this time."
The teams split two games last season, both winning at home. But the Patriots have owned the series in recent years, taking 17 of the past 23 matchups against Miami.
So the Dolphins are hoping that a little more preparation time for the Patriots might pay off Sunday. The schedule was released in April, meaning Miami has had about five months to think about the tasks that would await in Week 1, and Tannehill acknowledged that the Dolphins were working on Patriot-week things even before the final preseason game.
"Miami is obviously a good football team," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "They handled us down there last year and gave us a real competitive game up here. I think they're good in all areas."
Here's what to watch when the Patriots visit the Dolphins:
BRADY LOVES MIAMI: Sun Life Stadium has been open for 27 years, and only two quarterbacks — Dan Marino and Jay Fiedler — have thrown more touchdown passes there than Patriots star Tom Brady. Not bad, considering Brady plays there but once a year. Brady has more completions and touchdown passes against the Dolphins than any opponent in history, and is 92 yards shy of topping Drew Bledsoe for the top spot in regular-season yards thrown against Miami as well.
KNOWSHON KNOWS: The Patriots have allowed one running back to top 200 yards against them in their past 211 games, and that running back is now wearing Dolphins colors. New Miami back Knowshon Moreno had 224 yards on the ground against New England last season for Denver, in a game where the Broncos wasted a 24-0 halftime lead and fell 34-31 in overtime. "It was all right . (but) we still lost," Moreno said.
WEATHER ISSUES: The theory has long been that when the Dolphins are at home in steamy South Florida, the weather should be an advantage. That hasn't exactly held true in recent years. Miami has lost eight of its past 12 home games on days when the mercury has climbed past 81 degrees. Forecasters say Sunday should reach the upper 80s, with a strong chance of rain.
THE STANDARD: Week 3 of the 2012 season. That's the previous time the Patriots didn't have at least a share of the lead in the AFC East, a streak that Miami could end with a win on Sunday. To say New England has been dominant in division games is an understatement — over the past 10 seasons the Patriots are a combined 48-12 vs. the other teams in the AFC East. The Jets are 29-31, the Dolphins are 22-38 and the Bills are 21-39.
TANNEHILL'S SACKS: Somehow, Miami's Ryan Tannehill is one of 13 NFL quarterbacks to play in all 32 games over the past two seasons. Tannehill — who will have five new offensive-line starters blocking for him this week — has gotten sacked 93 times in that span, 10 more than any other quarterback. The previous quarterback to get sacked more in a two-year stretch was Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, a 96-time sackee in 2007 and 2008. New England registered 48 sacks a year ago, its most since 1986.
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