FOXBORO -- The 8-3 Patriots can clinch the AFC East on Sunday with a win over the Miami Dolphins.
So you would think that Dolphins coach Joe Philbin would have had a message to his team this week. Something like, "Don't let them come into our building and win the division!"
Not so much. At least, Philbin hadn't planned on doing that, until he was informed that New England could clinch, in a conference call on Wednesday.
"Believe it or not, this is the honest to God truth, I didn't even know that," said Philbin when asked about Sunday's stipulations. "I'm not surprised, looking at what they've done the last five weeks.
"We're not worried, necessarily, about that. We're worried about how well they're executing in all three phases of the game. But as far as the standings, right now, that's not really a focus of ours."
Like his coach, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill also didn't know that the Patriots can clinch the division with a win in Miami on Sunday, until asked about it on Wednesday's conference calls.
"I had no clue, until you just said that," said Tannehill. "So, I don't think it's anything that we're talking about in the locker room thus far. We're obviously just focused on a good Patriots team that is going to come in and play hard and play well."
Philbin is a Massachusetts native, so he's aware of how dominant the Patriots have been in the AFC East, even though he's in just his first season as the Dolphins coach.
"I think it's a good, competitive division," said Philbin. "Obviously there's some good rivals that we have, with all three teams. The three of us are a work in progress at this stage, and one team's playing very, very well."
While competitive, he acknowledges that the Patriots are in a class of their own, mainly because of their turnover ratio.
"Plus-24 is what I see," said Philbin. "That's a great place to start, if you want to talk about winning football games in the National Football League. It's a great credit to their players and their coaches. These guys do a fantastic job. I mean, we're minus-10, and that's not very good. And they're plus-24. That's outstanding. That's a tremendous place to build your program around. So I would say that's the one thing that jumps out at me."