It's Week 13 and New England finally gets its first shot at the Dolphins. Unlike last season, when the Patriots opened the year against Miami and had 13 long weeks before the rematch, they will play this divisional rival twice in one month.
Does it matter at this point? Well, yes. A win on Sunday would punch New England's playoff ticket by virtue of divisional supremacy.
But the series may be even more important to the Dolphins. They are a deceptive 5-6. Their playoff hopes are not only far from dead, but perhaps dangerously desperate. And they clash bitterly with New England's.
A split would be good for Miami; a sweep would be better.
The team's best shot, considering its 26th-ranked passing defense, may be putting up points. It's up to the Patriots coaching staff to prepare its players for Miami's bloodlust.
From the sounds of Tuesday's conference calls, that work has begun.
Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia raved about the opponents' various weapons, beginning with rookie signal caller Ryan Tannehill.
"Were talking about a guy that is very familiar with the offensive system that he is running right now," Patricia said. "It is a system that puts a lot of demand on the quarterback spot and I think hes doing an excellent job handling all of the different responsibilities of the system. Mike Sherman was his coach at Texas A&M University and he has a lot of experience running this system. I think hes doing a real good job."
So much so, Patricia rolled on.
"If you take a look at the Seattle game from this past weekend," he said, "him just taking a good command of the offense, making adjustments, making checks, getting the offense into the right particular play based on what hes looking at from a defensive perspective and trying to get them positive yardage on every play. I think hes doing an excellent job as far as handling the system; hes obviously familiar with it and does a real good job with it."
Dolphins running back Reggie Bush was also praised.
But Patricia wasn't just using a broad brush to paint platitudes all over New England's upcoming opponent; Bush is in Year Two of a career renaissance.
The former No. 2 overall pick in 2006's NFL draft underwhelmed in New Orleans for five seasons before finding a better fit in Miami. Bush has 662 rushing yards and five touchdowns in 11 games this year.
"Hes obviously an extremely talented player," Patricia said. "A guy that has a lot of ability in multiple facets of the offense and they do a good job of using him in many different positions whether its from the running back position or getting him out of the backfield on free-release type plays or just lining him up out of the backfield in empty-type situations where they can get the ball to him out in space and really take advantage of the matchup there."
The Patriots defense certainly shouldn't expect a breezy night in Florida.
There's just too much on the line for Miami.