The New England Patriots improved to 2-2 with a 38-7 home win Sunday over the Miami Dolphins.
Tom Brady finished 23-of-35 for 274 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, while receiver Josh Gordon caught two passes for 32 yards in his Patriots debut.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 100 yards and an interception on 11-of-20 passing.
Patriots Reassert Themselves as Team to Beat in AFC East
Heading into Week 4, the Patriots were coming off an 11-point defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 and a subsequent loss to the Detroit Lions in which they mustered only 10 points and 209 yards of offense. People weren't calling for an end to New England's dynasty, but they were at least pondering the prospect.
Now, the Patriots once again look to be a class above in the AFC East.
That's as much an indictment of the division as it is an endorsement of New England. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are both in rebuilding mode and on the way to their third defeats of the season Sunday. The Dolphins got exposed as well.
There are real reasons for concern about the Patriots' Super Bowl hopes.
Brady turned 41 in August, and it's unclear what kind of player receiver Julian Edelman will be in his first meaningful action since tearing his ACL last season once he returns from his suspension. The state of New England's passing game isn't ideal. On the other side, one dominant performance doesn't outweigh the Patriots' 21st-place ranking in defensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders, through the first three weeks.
When it comes to the state of the AFC East, though, all signs point to a 10th straight division title for New England.
Heavy Defeat a Reality Check for Dolphins
Optimistic Dolphins fans will point to the team's inability to win in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and not read too much into the result.
But Miami doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Calling the Dolphins' 3-0 start a mirage would be unfair. It did, however, set an unrealistic bar.
Those three wins came against the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets and Oakland Raiders. Those teams sat 21st, 28th and 31st, respectively, in Bleacher Report's most recent expert consensus power rankings.
Sunday presented an opportunity for the Dolphins to show they've turned a corner, and they fell on their faces. They gained 172 yards of offense and averaged 3.8 yards per play while going 3-of-11 on third down.
Miami still warrants a place in the AFC playoff conversation. The Dolphins' route back to the postseason is just likely through the wild-card race rather than claiming a division crown for the first time since 2008.
Sony Michel's Big Day the Perfect Remedy for Struggling NE Offense
Sony Michel ran for 84 yards on 24 carries in his first two games. An inability to establish a consistent ground game had a domino effect on the rest of New England's offense, which ranked 25th in yards per game (300.0).
Michel was excellent Sunday, running for 112 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
Because they have Brady under center, the Patriots haven't always invested heavily in the running game. Prior to selecting Michel with the 31st overall pick in the 2018 draft, New England hadn't used a first-round selection on a running back since 2006 (Laurence Maroney).
When the Patriots can pose a threat on the ground with a dynamic running back, they're nearly unstoppable.
Especially with Brady likely in the twilight of his playing career, easing the pressure on him and the passing game is important for New England.
Gordon looked good on his two targets, but the jury is still out as to whether he'll make a genuine difference. If Gordon isn't the answer, then the Patriots are back to using Phillip Dorsett or Chris Hogan as the No. 2 receiver behind a returning Edelman.
The outlook for New England's offense is more positive if it can strike a balance between hitting teams through the air and giving Michel a steady dose of productive touches on the ground.
The Dolphins have another road game in Week 5 as they travel to Paul Brown Stadium for a matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Patriots welcome the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday before their highly anticipated Oct. 14 clash with the visiting Kansas City Chiefs.