Pats can't count on Dolphins flop this year

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Pats can't count on Dolphins flop this year

The Dolphins could lay claim to the title of "Best Bad Team in the League."A far cry from the 1972 edition of the Dolphins that didn't lose a game and hasn't lost a chance to remind folks of it, either. Still, it's something for Miami to hang its hat on. And for the Patriots, it's something to be wary of. Newly-installed as the AFC's No. 1 seed (after the Steelers loss to San Fran Monday night), all the Patriots have to do is rip past two AFC East opponents during the holidays to protect that seed. If they do that and win a playoff game, the AFC Championship will be staged at Gillette Stadium on January 22nd. But the Dolphins could be a Christmas Eve irritant. They got a win over Buffalo last week for interim head coach Todd Bowles, and the truth is that they never quit on Bowles' predecessor Tony Sparano. Here's a fun picture of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to look at while pondering the head coaching change. They are 5-9 but lost four of those games by a field goal or less. And those tight losses came to Denver, the Giants, Dallas and Cleveland. (Not that Cleveland's a juggernaut but I can't mention the other three that are mildly impressive and the loss that isn't . . . know what I mean?) They are 4-2 since November 13.Last January, Miami memorably quit in the season finale at Gillette. Waddling to the finish line, Miami fell 38-7 to end the season at 7-9.Neither Wes Welker nor Deion Branch played. Tom Brady played into the third quarter then sat down, yet the Patriots gained 502 yards. Even Taylor Price caught three balls. The Pats were up 38-0 before Miami narrowed that gap with two minutes left. But the pride Miami played without last season seems to be present now. And that's why, if the Patriots are going to end up the No. 1 seed, the Dolphins are a team to be wary of.

Patriots players got a refresher on NFL social media policy because of Brown

Patriots players got a refresher on NFL social media policy because of Brown

FOXBORO -- Antonio Brown's live stream of coach Mike Tomlin's postgame speech on Sunday had a ripple effect that traveled all the way to New England: Just in case Patriots players weren't familiar with the league's social-media policy, they were reminded of it this week. 

"We were reminded of that," receiver Chris Hogan said. "I’m not sure what the timing is, but obviously, I don’t think we’ll see guys doing that in the locker room."

Players are prohibited from using social media in the locker room until media outlets have been given an opportunity to talk to players following games. Brown's Facebook Live video, which garnered national attention almost as soon as it went online, was shot well before the visitor's locker room at Arrowhead Stadium opened following Pittsburgh's win over Kansas City.

"We have a team policy on that," special teams captain Matthew Slater said. "Strictly enforced. We go from there."

Of course part of the reason the video became as widely disseminated as it did was because it caught Tomlin calling the Patriots "a--holes."

"I have a lot of respect for Coach Tomlin," Slater said when asked about Tomlin's speech. "I appreciate the way he prepares his team. I’ve had a good working relationship with him over the years, and it will continue to be that way."

Both Slater and Hogan insisted that their focus will be trained solely on preparing for what Tomlin and his players will do when they arrive to Gillette Stadium Sunday night -- not what they say leading up to kickoff.

"You come in here, you're automatically bought into what we preach here, what coach [Bill] Belichick preaches," Hogan said. "It's football. We're 100 percent football here. It's not about anything outside. Between the media or whatever it is outside of football, whatever we're doing. When we come here, it's 100 percent football. That's all we're focused on is the opponent we're playing that week."

Whether Goodell visits Foxboro or not, Patriots players say they don't care

Whether Goodell visits Foxboro or not, Patriots players say they don't care

FOXBORO -- Roger Goodell will reportedly be in Atlanta for the NFC Championship Game this weekend and therefore will miss the AFC title game between the Patriots and Steelers at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. His absence will mean he hasn't been to a Patriots game in more than two years, when he was present for the AFC title game in 2015 -- the birth of Deflategate. 

It's news that broke on Tuesday and sent some Patriots fans into an uproar. Patriots players, though, sound like they're having a hard time caring one way or the other.

"He’s the commissioner, so obviously whatever he wants to do, he can do," Tom Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Monday. "If he wants to come, that would be -- yeah, he can come."

In the Patriots locker room on Tuesday, others struck a similar tone.

"I could not care less," said Patriots receiver Chris Hogan. "I'm focused on Pittsburgh and their defense and studying them as much as I can this week, watching them as much as I can so that I can go out there on Sunday and be prepared."

Special teams captain Matthew Slater was similarly disinterested in the discussion.

"The game's going to be played," he said. "Whoever's in attendance is in attendance. We'll just worry about trying to play well."