It's the most significant Dolphins game since four coaches ago. The biggest game since eight quarterbacks ago. The most meaningful 60 minutes since Ricky Williams version 1.0 was still part of the program.
On Sunday, the Dolphins can go from feel-good to real good in a single game and return a feeling of legitimacy to Dolphin Stadium that hasn't existed there for half a decade.
The game becomes even bigger because of the opponent. The New England Patriots are intimidating regardless of record. Beating the Patriots twice in one season seems unthinkable regardless of who's taking the snaps at quarterback. Handing the Patriots their first losing streak of any kind since Nov. 12, 2006, is nearly unfathomable regardless of the injury count.
The Patriots make this game even bigger.
But if you're pulling for the Dolphins in this mega-contest, you should also consider this: The Patriots also make this big game very winnable.
Erase the logo from the helmet, ignore the recent history of AFC dominance, look past the coach with the horrible fashion sense and what you're left with is a team that's no more intimidating than the Denver Broncos. A team so ravaged by injuries it has no more star power than the San Diego Chargers. A team with the same record over its past six games as the Cleveland Browns.
Why should the Dolphins be the intimidated group when they're the ones with the more destructive defensive presence?
Joey Porter didn't rack up four sacks in Week 3 because Matt Cassel was an inexperienced starter or because he scared the Patriots with his pregame trash talk. He did it because he manhandled the New England offensive line, and it's the Patriots who have to find a way to guard against a repeat performance.
Why should the Dolphins be the ones fretting over the Patriots' offense when it's Miami that will have the only recognizable running backs on the field? Sammie Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis would have trouble beating out Patrick Cobbs for playing time, much less compete with Ronnie Brown or Williams version 2.0.
Yes, Cassel has improved over the past two months, and yes, Randy Moss and Wes Welker make for a potentially explosive receiver combination. But the Dolphins managed to control a trio of Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal on the road, so what makes this New England combination any more daunting?
NO COACHING EDGE
The argument in favor of the Patriots has more to do Bill Belichick than any actual advantage on the field.
Belichick is angry that the Dolphins unveiled the Wildcat against his team, they say, making the man in the hooded sweatshirt thirsty for revenge.
Fine, so he'll be ready to stop the Wildcat. The Dolphins' success with it over their four-game winning streak has been negligible.
Belichick will find a way, they say, to make sure the Dolphins don't get the best of him again because he always manages to find a way.
Fine, his teams have a history of coming up big when challenged. But if coaching mystique and reputation mean anything at all, then consider the resume being built up on the other sideline.
Tony Sparano has worked his own magic in just his first year as a head coach -- showing off a Midas touch arguably equal to Belichick's.
Sparano's team appears to rise to the occasion when it's most unexpected. Sparano is the coach who ran a Wildcat system that's now being imitated by a third of the league. It's Sparano who is coaching a once-mocked secondary and a no-name receiving corps and making both real factors on a team with playoff aspirations.
If he keeps this up, he might be the more personable, slightly better dressed version of Belichick soon enough.
So not even the supposed coaching edge should make this Patriots team particularly threatening.
Sweeping them seems improbable because of who the Patriots were, not because of who they are.
''The bottom line is, it's about personnel and it's about maybe what they've done over the last four, five, six weeks that way,'' Sparano said. ``We've got to look at the body of work over the last several weeks because that's probably the way they're going to end up playing this game.''
Based on the past several weeks, then, this is a big game the Dolphins can win.
This is a big game the Dolphins will win.
And when it's over, it'll seem even bigger because of the team they conquered. They will have overcome the mighty Patriots -- again.