Who here has been a die-hard, loyal Miami Dolphins fan since 2000, or even before that?
Let me ask another question. How many times have they made the playoffs since then? What if I told you in the past 20 years the team has only made the playoffs three times, all of which coming with losses in the wild card round?
Those appearances came in 2001, 2008 and 2016. All of the other years they missed the playoffs of course. Now the team has an opportunity to get back to the playoffs in the 2016 season.
At This Stage of Miami’s Rebuild, Playoffs Now Seem Wild
Who would’ve thought that after last season’s abysmal performance that the Dolphins’ rebuild would already have them in playoff talks? Not even the hunt, but holding onto a playoff seed?
Miami has had a season worth remembering, a season where they have shown a lot of growth on both sides of the ball, as well as shining a light on its franchise-hopeful quarterback.
Dolphins’ Path to Playoffs Difficult, Yet Manageable
The Dolphins are sitting at 8-5 overall and have a shot at making the playoffs, but that path will not be easy for the last three games of the season. Miami has one of the toughest remaining schedules in the NFL, and a six-point loss last weekend, with teams around them in the AFC Playoff picture also winning, gives it an even tighter rope to walk on.
Looking at the Dolphins’ remaining schedule they have to take on the New England Patriots on Sunday, then get the Las Vegas Raiders in a primetime slate next Saturday night and will finish off their season in Buffalo against the Bills who have already won the division. Each game will pose different challenges for the team, but as the saying goes, it’s not who is the better team on paper that wins the game, it’s the team that plays the best that day that determines who wins at the end of it all.
First Stop: Home Finale VS New England
The Dolphins and Patriots matched up to start the 2020 season, but it seems as though both teams have gone in a different direction since the season opener. Both got new faces at the QB position, Cam Newton for New England and Tua Tagovailoa for Miami, so it was about who was more ready to start the season. However, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick started that game and struggled connecting with the double-digit new faces on both sides of the football. The Dolphins stayed in it late, getting within one score in the fourth quarter in what proved to be a tight matchup in week one, but the Patriots walked out of game one with the 21-11 win.
Don’t get me wrong, this Dolphins team is not the same from the beginning of the season. Being at home for round two can pay off dividends. ESPN is giving the Patriots a 51.7-percent chance of winning the game, but the Dolphins can get it going like they have for most of the season. I believe that the Dolphins will take this one on Sunday despite what happened before, especially now with the postseason on the line. Miami has something to play for in December for the first time in a long time.
Second Stop: Primetime in Las Vegas
Another team that has struggled to find any type of rhythm in terms of producing wins and losses are the Raiders. However, they did look good to begin the season, starting off at 6-3, but now currently sit at .500 with a 7-7 overall record. In-line with New England, these two teams are the furthest on the outside looking in who have not yet been eliminated from playoff contention.
The only true thing that needs to be said with this game is that the New York Jets, who have been winless all season, almost got their first win against this team had it not been for a final-play defensive breakdown.
Currently on a two-game losing streak, Las Vegas will look to get back above .500 against the Dolphins, keep playoff hopes alive and finish the season with a winning record. The Dolphins defense however will still be on a wrecking force and will be the deciding factor in the game. The Raiders have scored at least 27 points in the past three games, so the Dolphins will have to find a way to slow them down overall.
It’s still unknown at this time whether Las Vegas QB Derek Carr will be the starter in the game after taking what appeared to be a groin injury on Thursday Night Football against the Los Angeles Chargers. Backup, and former starter, Marcus Mariota forced an overtime thriller and could be in-line for a start. He had a rapport immediately with tight end Darren Waller, who is coming on strong late in the season, who could end up giving Miami a field day of fits like the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce did. Regardless, the Dolphins defense’s ability to force turnovers this season has been unlike any season the organization has seen in years and should wreak havoc for whoever is under center.
Final Stop: Season Finale in Buffalo
The last game of the season will be the toughest for the Dolphins as they will end it with a matchup with the Bills.
Buffalo has been red-hot this season, currently sitting at 11-3 overall. QB Josh Allen has kept the Bills offense consistent and lethal and in the last matchup between these two teams, the Bills squeaked by with the 31-28 win in Miami during the NFL’s week two.
Already locking up the division title and playoff spot, Miami could see Buffalo rest its starters in week 17, as it likely won’t get the conference’s only first round bye, but it shouldn’t count on it.
Hard Remaining Schedule, No Problem
Looking at all of these matchups, the Dolphins can very well win all three of these games. Is that likely however, time will tell, but the Bills will likely prove as the toughest task. ESPN’s NFL playoff predictor says the team currently has a 30.2-percent chance of making the playoffs mainly because of strength of schedule of the team’s it’s battling around them. The Dolphins will keep their eyes fixated the most closely on the Baltimore Ravens, but Miami however has been full of surprises throughout the 2020 season. Taking it a week at a time, the team will first have to get revenge against the Patriots for the season-opening loss. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. eastern on Sunday.