Thu Dec 6 4:58pm ET
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 file photo, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn. Although the New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East for the past decade, theyve lost four of their past five games in Miami heading into the matchup on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. The Patriots can clinch their 10th straight division title with a win. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)
In this Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 file photo, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) looks to pass, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Miami Gardens, Fla. Although the New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East for the past decade, theyve lost four of their past five games in Miami heading into the matchup on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. The Patriots can clinch their 10th straight division title with a win.(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
In this Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady charges onto the field before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Foxborough, Mass. Although the New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East for the past decade, theyve lost four of their past five games in Miami heading into Sundays matchup. The Patriots can clinch their 10th straight division title with a win. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
MIAMI (AP) Ryan Tannehill was heading out the door when someone noted the predicted high temperature of 83 for Sunday's game between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.
''Not quite hot enough,'' Tannehill responded with a smile.
Turn up the heat. That's what the Dolphins tend to do when the Patriots play in Miami.
While New England has dominated Miami - and everyone else - in the AFC East over the past decade, the reverse has been true lately when the teams meet in South Florida.
The Dolphins have won four of the past five home meetings, including 27-20 last December when Jay Cutler outplayed Tom Brady.
Oddsmakers expect the trend to end, with New England (9-3) a touchdown favorite over Miami (6-6).
Here are things to know as the Patriots attempt to clinch their 10th consecutive division title:
TOUGH PLACE TO PLAY
In recent years the Patriots have had worse results in Miami than anywhere else, and New England coach Bill Belichick blames the Dolphins.
''They've got a good football team,'' he said. ''They've got a lot of good players.''
That's fine, coach, except that in Foxborough, your team has won 10 in a row against Miami by an average score of 33-13. That includes a 38-7 victory earlier this season. And in the standings, the Dolphins have been perennial also-rans to your dynasty.
Belichick and his players discount the South Florida climate as a factor, but it does favor the Dolphins, with teams from the north tending to wilt in the warm weather.
''Sometimes it hits some of these teams pretty hard,'' Miami coach Adam Gase said.
The bad news for the Dolphins is that forecasters don't anticipate the heavily favored Patriots will take the game lightly - not with the annoyance this week of constant questions about their recent results in Miami.
''The last few times we've played them down there, we haven't played very well,'' running back James White acknowledged, ''so I think that's enough motivation.''
After a quiet day when the teams met in September, Miami receiver Danny Amendola is itching for another crack at his former team, but he has been nursing a knee injury and missed last week's win over Buffalo.
Amendola became one of Brady's favorite targets during his five seasons in New England. He is in his first year with Miami after signing a $12 million, two-year contract and leads the team in catches and yards receiving.
Patriots safety Patrick Chung said Amendola was always a handful in practice.
''Danny's the man,'' Chung said. ''He's a small dude, but he's stronger than you think and he's feisty. He's going to be ready for us.''
Early this season, opponents took advantage of a New England defense that struggled to get pressure up front and was susceptible in the secondary to big plays.
The Patriots appear to be tightening up at the right time. They haven't allowed a 300-yard passer in five consecutive games, or a 100-yard rusher in nine consecutive games.
That's a vast improvement for a unit that gave up 30 or more points three times in the first seven games, including a season-high 40 in narrow win over Kansas City.
Belichick said the improvement is part of an evolving identity in the first season with linebackers coach Brian Flores making defensive calls.
Tannehill has a passer rating of 112.7 with five touchdowns and one interception in two games since returning from an injury to his throwing shoulder. The performances come amid growing speculation about whether the Dolphins will bring him back next season.
''I have a long way to go to get where I want to be,'' he said. ''I think I'm doing all right, but a lot of plays I'd like to be better at. I think we have a lot better football in front of us as an offense.''
Brady enters Sunday tied with Peyton Manning for the most touchdown passes in NFL history, including playoffs.
Manning and Brady both have 579 TD tosses, followed by Brett Favre (552) and Drew Brees (547). The 508 regular-season touchdown passes by Brady and Favre trail Manning (539) and Brees (518) on the career list.
New England Patriots running back James White caught four passes for 49 yards, including 23 rushing yards, in the team's 37-31 win over the Chiefs to advance to the Super Bowl. One week after White caught 15 passes, the veteran running back was targeted only six times in the passing game. White already has one Super Bowl MVP under his belt and has enjoyed a career season with 85 receptions and 12 total touchdowns. He will certainly have to share time in the backfield with teammates Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead but White will see plenty of action against the Rams on February 3.
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel carried the ball 29 times for 113 yards with two touchdowns in the Patriots 37-31 victory over the Chiefs to reach the Super Bowl. The rookie running back was fantastic from the jump and the Patriots leaned on him to move the chains. Michel punched in a 1-yard score to get New England on the board and then sprinted untouched for a 10-yard score in the fourth quarter. Michel is hot at the right time and will have tons of sleeper potential as a possible Super Bowl MVP heading into the Patriots matchup against the Rams on February 3.
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski caught six passes for 79 yards in the Patriots 37-31 win over the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. Gronk was targeted a team-high 11 times and delivered some huge plays in the wild final minutes of the game. He was counted on to pick up some huge first downs, none more important than a big-time 25-yard catch to set up a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Gronkowski has not looked like himself this season but with one game left, the Patriots will do all they can to unleash Gronk against the Rams in the Super Bowl on February 3.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed 30 of 46 passes for 348 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the Patriots thrilling AFC Championship victory over the Chiefs 37-31 in overtime. The Patriots offense got off to a slow start but the future Hall of Famer turned it on when it mattered the most. From the beginning of the fourth quarter, Brady nearly doubled his passing yards with some nearly perfect drives. When the chips were down, the Patriots put the ball in Brady's hands and delivered strike after strike as the team scored 20 points in the final quarter in addition to overtime. Brady will now play in his ninth Super Bowl on February 3, striving to win an all-time record sixth Super Bowl.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman caught seven passes for 96 yards in the Patriots 37-31 overtime win over the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. Edelman was quiet for most of the game but was heavily targeted in the games final minutes, delivering clutch catch after catch. Edelman is clearly quarterback Tom Brady's preferred target in crunch time and the veteran receiver made some fantastic receptions in traffic. Edelman will be a top choice to lead the team in targets when the Patriots take on the Rams in the Super Bowl February 3.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas caught four passes for only 36 yards in the Saints 26-23 overtime loss to the Rams in the NFC Championship Game. Thomas was targeted seven times but disappointed for a player that caught 125 passes in the regular season. The Saints offense revolved mostly around teammate Alvin Kamara and Thomas was a non-factor. Despite the disappointing end to his season, Thomas will remain a top choice among wide receivers in fantasy heading into next season.
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley's lack of involvement in the offense against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game was because of the 'flow' of the game, according to head coach Sean McVay.
Fantasy Spin: Gurley rushed just four times, and while he did drop a couple of passes, it is almost impossible to believe that the reason he spent most of the game on the sidelines wasn't related to the knee injury he suffered late in the year. If he is banged up, he will have two weeks to prepare before the Super Bowl.
New England Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy finished with 10 tackles, including eight solo stops and a tackle for loss, and two sacks in a 37-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski caught six of his 11 targets for 79 yards in a 37-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: There have been rumblings that Gronkowski may hang it up after the season, but for now he has to prepare for another trip to the Super Bowl. He isn't the overwhelming force he was a few years ago, but he is still capable of putting up big numbers compared to a majority of the other tight ends in the league.
New England Patriots RB James White rushed six times for 23 yards and caught four of his six targets for 49 yards in a 37-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: It was a relatively quiet game for White, but you only need to look back one week at his 15-catch performance against the Los Angeles Chargers for a reminder of the type of production he is capable of providing.
New England Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett caught one of his three targets for a 29-yard touchdown in a 37-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
New England Patriots RB Rex Burkhead rushed 12 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score in overtime, and caught four passes for 23 yards in a 37-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Burkhead often takes a backseat to Sony Michel and James White, but he still is capable of delivering when his number is called and is up to three touchdowns this postseason.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman caught seven of his 10 targets for a team-high 96 yards in a 37-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman was particularly clutch on third downs throughout the game, and he has been Tom Brady's favorite target this postseason. Heading into the Super Bowl, Edelman has 16 catches on 23 targets for 247 yards in two games.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins caught four of his eight targets for 114 yards in a 37-31 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Injuries remain a constant issue for Watkins, but he wasn't bad when he was on the field. He topped 60 yards in five of his final six games, including the playoffs, and even as the No. 3 option in the Kansas City passing attack, he will have WR3 upside in 2019.
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady completed 30 of his 46 passes for 348 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in a 37-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: It wasn't the prettiest game of Brady's playoff career, and he had a third in interception that would have ended the game wiped out by a penalty. Still, he made enough big throws to put New England back in the Super Bowl, and he will try to add his incredible legacy in a couple of weeks.
New England Patriots RB Sony Michel rushed 29 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Michel has been a monster in the postseason, logging 53 carries for 242 yards and five scores in two games. He will try to add to those numbers in the Super Bowl in a couple of weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce caught three of his five targets for 23 yards and a touchdown in a 37-31 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: It marked just the second time all year and the first time since the season opener that Kelce failed to top 40 receiving yards. His season may have ended on a sour note, but that doesn't change the fact that Kelce may be the top fantasy option at his position heading into 2019.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Damien Williams rushed 10 times for 30 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 66 yards and two scores in a 37-31 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Williams didn't do much on the ground, but an early deficit had a lot to do with that. Still, he showcased his versatility once again, and since taking over as the starter, he has left no doubt that he can be a workhorse for the Kansas City backfield. Williams will have RB1 potential entering 2019.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes completed 16 of his 31 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns and rushed twice for 11 yards in a 37-31 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Mahomes led the Chiefs back from an early deficit, but he never saw the ball overtime. His impressive season doesn't end with a Super Bowl appearance, but it will put him in the conversation to be the first quarterback selected in drafts in 2019.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill caught one of his three targets for 42 yards in a 37-31 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: As the Patriots often do, they took away the best offensive weapon for their opponent. It was a quiet end to the best season of Hill's career, but he looks poised to deliver WR1 numbers for the foreseeable future as the top target for Patrick Mahomes.