Once you realize how unlikely a Dolphins’ playoff run truly is, it’s pretty obvious that the only hope fans can be clinging to is the idea of the Dolphins winning their final six games of the season. A long shot to say the least for a reeling team that appears closer to completely falling apart than coming together for a miraculous late season push.
Even more discouraging is the fact that the Dolphins have already lost control of their own destiny. Winning out doesn’t even guarantee them a playoff berth because if the Jets, Pats, Steelers, and Ravens all finish out 4-2 or better the Dolphins will be eliminated regardless of how they finish the year. In the event the Dolphins do improbably run the table, though, either the Jets or Patriots will have at least two loses considering the Dolphins still play both and both still play each other.
So if the Dolphins can indeed do the unthinkable, I’m confident they will find a spot in the playoffs. I’m just not so confident that they are even capable of pulling off that type of feat at this point, though.
But there are some winnable games on the schedule. They may be injury depleted and incapable of running the football, but their defense is playing well enough to beat the inconsistent Raiders and Browns these next two games and the bottom feeding Bills and Lions in Weeks 15 and 16.
That still leaves the two road hurdles in New York and New England. They may be arguably the two best teams in the league, but both appear as beatable as 8-2 teams can be, with the Jets getting lucky last minute wins against non-playoff caliber teams and the Patriots fielding one of the league’s worst defenses statistically.
But then again, we are just looking at these games individually. All are winnable, but on the same token, all are losable. And that’s asking an awful lot to have every single one of those games go the Dolphins way. They have nobody to blame but themselves for being in this situation, though. And we really have no choice at this point, but to try to conceive how exactly they are going to get themselves out of it and into the playoffs.
1. Find a way to become an average running team: The good ol’ days of Ronnie and Ricky being one of the league’s most dynamic running back duo’s is over, and there’s no way they’re coming back. The currently assembled offensive line just isn’t good enough, and honestly, Ronnie and Ricky just don’t have the same spring in their step as they did just a short year ago. With that said, this Dolphins’ offense desperately needs to find a way to run the football averagely. Like those offenses that don’t run it particularly well, but have enough success here and there to prevent becoming completely one-dimensional. Getting pass happy is especially risky when a third-string quarterback is under center. Hopefully Chad Henne returns this Sunday, but with no Brandon Marshall this pass-first attack isn’t capable of much without a go-to threat.
2. Get out of their own way: Even when it looked like the Dolphins were beginning to get a little momentum going offensively last Thursday night, they quickly put a halt to it with stupid mistakes. Brandon Marshall’s fifteen yard penalty for flipping the ball to Jay Cutler on the sideline and his two drops immediately comes to mind. But Tyler Thigpen fumbling the attempted handoff to Brian Hartline on the would-be end around on the game’s opening drive was surely a game-altering momentum killer. In a season hanging by a thread, one dumb mistake is all it could take to end the Dolphins already slim playoff hopes.
3. Create more turnovers: The Dolphins’ defense is quietly putting together a very solid season. Statistically, they have surpassed expectations as they currently rank 6th in total defense and 5th against the pass. In the likely event that the offense continues to struggle, though, the defense is going to have to manufacture some points. The best way to do that is create turnovers that either put the offense in great position to score, or get returned for touchdowns themselves. Currently, the Dolphin’ defense only ranks 25th in interceptions and are tied for the second fewest fumble recoveries.
4. Live up to their potential against the run: Perhaps the only thing standing in the way of the Dolphins’ defense taking the next step and emerging as one of the league’s elite units is their ability to stop the run. They currently rank 20th in that category, even though that ranking slightly blows things out of proportion. They actually rank 8th in yards surrendered per carry, giving up only 3.9 yards per rush. In my opinion, though, they have the potential to completely shut down most opposing running games. They have flashed brief spurts of dominating against the run, but usually are a few missed tackles and over-pursued angles away from doing so consistently throughout the game.
5. Get a little luck: The Dolphins obviously don’t have much control over this one, but getting some luck is probably essential if they aren’t going to lose another game. Luck is something they haven’t had much of lately with all the injuries that have plagued this team. Either the injury bug truly is contagious, or the Dolphins are the league’s most unlucky team this season. Either way, the Dolphins need to get healthy and stay healthy. They just don’t have enough depth on the offensive side of the ball to hold up when so many guys have gone down. Outside of injuries, the Dolphins need to catch on to whatever the Jets have been doing lately. And what I mean by that is have the ball bounce their way every time late in games and benefit from opponents just refusing to close them out. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little bit, but seriously.
On that note, have a Happy Thanksgiving! I know one thing, that turkey would sure taste a lot better if the Lions and Bengals can find a way to upset the Pats and Jets.