Lloyd: Nice to be in the hunt

FOXBROUGH, Mass. -- Last year at this time, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd was playing on a 2-9 St. Louis Rams team that knew it wouldn't be in the playoffs.

Two years ago at this time, Lloyd was on a 3-8 Denver Broncos team that was playing out the string as Josh McDaniels' head coaching tenure was about to come to an abrupt end.

One has to go back to Lloyd's 2008 season with the Chicago Bears when identifying the last time the veteran pass-catcher has been on a team that still had a shot at the playoffs as the calendar turned to December.

"It’s definitely new for me," the 31-year-old Lloyd acknowledged on Wednesday, "but I’m preparing every day and going into the games on the weekend like it’s normal."

The 8-3 New England Patriots have a chance to clinch the AFC East division with a win over the 5-6 Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and for Lloyd and his teammates, it would represent one of their first goals of the season.

"It’s out there, and it’s a realistic goal, but it comes down to playing the game and that’s what we’re focused on," he said, before sharing his thoughts on what makes the Dolphins a threat.

"That pass rush is insane. It gives defensive backs an opportunity to make plays on the ball, so we’re definitely going to have to do our part, protecting up front, and getting open against the cornerbacks.”

Lloyd, who has 49 receptions for 551 yards (11.2 avg.) and three touchdowns this season, hasn't been in this situation often in his career. He's played for the 49ers (2003-2005), Redskins (2006-2007), Bears (2008), Broncos (2009-2011) and Rams (2011).

To be at his best Sunday in projected warm South Florida conditions, the work starts now.

“It different than the weather up here, and it’s going to present some challenges -- we have to do our part during the week, staying hydrated so we can be available for all four quarters," he said.

Lloyd's availability hasn't been an issue this season. He's appeared in all 11 games and leads all receivers with an 86.8 playing time percentage.