By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — In sports, we all like to believe we have some sense of certainty. Something we know. Something tangible, factual, backed up by numbers. It provides us safety, comfort, and some confidence when it comes to forecasting what might come next.

That’s why the Patriots’ decades-long struggles in Miami stand as one of the most irritating trends in all of sports.

As has been well-documented, the Patriots during the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era have not been successful when traveling to South Florida. That was an issue that made sense in the early 2000s, when the Dolphins were regularly a competitive playoff team. But as the years have worn on, and as the Dolphins have sunken well into NFL mediocrity, it’s been a history that’s been difficult to make sense of for everyone involved.

We need not examine the Dave Wannstedt/Ricky Williams days to find this history. We can just look back over the past five years to see that the Patriots are an abysmal 1-4 in their last five trips to Miami. (To illustrate how utterly bananas this is, consider that the Patriots are 71-16 in every other game since 2013, but 1-4 in Miami.) The 2014 Patriots won the Super Bowl, but not before getting bullied 33-20 in Miami in Week 1. The 2015 Patriots had the No. 1 seed in the conference within their grasps, if only they could have beaten the 5-10 Dolphins; they instead employed the most utterly baffling offensive game plan en route to a grisly 20-10 loss. Last year’s Patriots were on an absolute tear, winners of eight straight games, with a 35-17 home thumping of the Dolphins included in the middle; they then rolled in to Miami on a Monday night and lost 27-20.

The Patriots have mixed in some wins, but still, since 2008 they’re just 5-5 in Miami. For a team that’s maintained a .767 winning percentage in that same span, going .500 against a Dolphins team that’s won an average of 7.5 games per season is nothing short of mind-blowing.

All of which brings us to today. The Patriots are 9-3. They’re going to win the division, but they’re sniffing around for more. They can still snag the No. 1 seed in the conference, and if that fails, they can still hold on to the No. 2 spot and the first-round playoff bye that accompanies it.

But they probably can’t accomplish that former goal if they lose to the Dolphins. And strictly by a side-to-side matchup of these two football teams through 13 weeks of the season, the Patriots really should have nothing to worry about.

OFFENSE

YARDS PER GAME
New England: 7th, 395.1
Miami: 29th, 302.1

POINTS PER GAME
New England: 7th, 27.6
Miami: 25th, 20.3

THIRD DOWN OFFENSE
New England: 10th, 40.8%
Miami: 29th, 32.9%

PASS YARDS PER GAME
New England: 9th, 273
Miami: 28th, 199

PASS YARDS PER ATTEMPT
New England: 10th, 7.8
Miami: 17th, 7.4

PASSING TOUCHDOWNS
New England: T-17th, 20
Miami: T-14th, 21

RUSHING YARDS PER GAME
New England: 11th, 121.7
Miami: 24th, 102.7

RUSHING YARDS PER ATTEMPT
New England: 24th, 4.1
Miami: 17th, 4.3

RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS
New England: T-4th, 15
Miami: 32nd, 4

DEFENSE

YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME
New England: 22nd, 369.2
Miami: 29th, 399.4

POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME
New England: T-9th, 21.6
Miami: 20th, 25.0

INTERCEPTIONS
New England: T-3rd, 14
Miami: 2nd, 19

SACKS
New England: 30th, 19
Miami: 29th, 20

TURNOVER RATIO
New England: T-10th, +6
Miami: T-7th, +8

Areas where the Dolphins hold an edge are accented with italics, and as you can see, there aren’t many. And where the Dolphins do hold an edge, it’s generally slight.

Meanwhile the Patriots clearly have a much more efficient and potent offense, which at least in theory should comfortably tilt the scales in their favor.

(For what it’s worth, at an individual level, Brady has completed 67 percent of his passes for an average of 280 yards per game with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions in nine games in Miami since 2009. He’s had some exceptional games — 2011 and 2016 — as well as some dreadful games — 2014, 2017 — and some games where for some reason he was not asked to throw — 2015.)

However, two important caveats remain.

For one, the Dolphins employed Brock Osweiler for five starts this season. Unsurprisingly, that came with mixed results. The Dolphins averaged roughly a point more per game when Ryan Tannehill starts, which isn’t particularly significant. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that having Osweiler make nearly half of a team’s starts will impact the team’s overall stats.

Secondly, and more importantly, the Patriots have not been a good road team. They were able to waltz into the Meadowlands and stampede all over the Jets, but overall, they’re just 3-3. In those six games, they’ve averaged 21.7 points and 326.8 yards of offense. That’s compared to a 6-0 record with 33.5 points and 446.7 yards of offense per game. That’s quite the difference — roughly 12 points and 120 yards for those slow on the subtraction.

So, factoring in those issues with scoring and moving the ball on the road, and combining them with the Patriots’ mysterious problems in Miami, the overall stats can’t easily be applied to this game. For this game, it might be safe to assume the Patriots will find themselves in a difficult contest come Sunday at 1 p.m.

It may not make the most sense, but when it comes to the Patriots visiting Miami, nothing ever does.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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