The Indianapolis Colts shifted the playoff landscape in New England's favor earlier in the day with a 28-16 win over the Houston Texans. The Patriots knew before kickoff that a win over Miami would seal up the No. 2 seed. Tom Brady and friends took it from there in a romp in which Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked seven times.
The victory over Miami is an afterthought. What lies ahead is all that matters for New England.
The Patriots' path to the Super Bowl is far less treacherous now. They host a playoff game in two weeks and conceivably can host the AFC Championship Game if the Denver Broncos stumble. If the Broncos don't stumble, the prospect of Peyton Manning facing Tom Brady in the AFC title bout looms on the horizon as a possibility.
Just like that, it's starting to feel like old times in AFC.