The Miami Dolphins are in familiar territory. For the fifth straight year, they are one of the teams on the outside looking in terms of the AFC playoff picture with only a few games remaining.
However, this time its different. The Dolphins aren't holding out hope for a miracle to happen while not only needing to win out but also hoping that the teams in front of them lose out. This time, the Miami Dolphins control their own fate.
At 8-6, the Dolphins are in search of their first winning season and first playoff berth since they won the AFC East in 2008. There are several complicated scenarios that can play out in order for Miami's drought to come to an end, or they can clinch a spot the easy way and beat two of their division rivals, the Bills and Jets.
This week's matchup against the 5-9 Bills in Buffalo does not look like a favourable one, at least on paper. The Bills lead the NFL with 49 sacks through 14 games while the Dolphins main weakness this season has been protecting Ryan Tannehill who has been sacked a league leading 51 times. While the offensive line has shown improvement since the first time these teams met in 2013, the Bills defensive line still has a clear advantage in this matchup. The outcome of the game could very well be decided by the outcome in the trenches.
On offense, the Bills are 4th in rushing yards per game with 138.2 while the Dolphins run defense ranks 22nd, allowing an average of 117.2 yards per game on the ground. If Miami finds themselves trailing early, they can expect a heavy dose of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller until they prove they can stop this duo. Factor in the projected forecast of cold weather and rain, this certainly won't be a cakewalk for the Dolphins but its still a game they should win.
Despite two glaring matchup advantages for the Bills, the Dolphins hold the edge at the most important position; quarterback. Ryan Tannehill has completed 64% of his passes, thrown for 8 touchdowns, two interceptions and led his team to a 3-0 record in the month of December. If that Ryan Tannehill makes the trip to Buffalo, I don't see Miami losing this game.
Following an incredibly emotional win against the Patriots last week, many are expecting this to be a letdown game for Miami. There's only one problem with this theory, "trap" games don't exist this late in a season especially with so much on the line. Joe Philbin has done an admirable job of keeping the Dolphins focused throughout the Incognito-Martin saga but if he can't get his team prepared for a Thad Lewis led Bills squad, he is likely not the right man for the job.
If the Dolphins lose twice in one year to Thad Lewis, they not only should miss the playoffs. They should disband the franchise.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) December 18, 2013
The Dolphins are brimming with confidence on and off the field. But now, they must finish what they started. They must play with a sense of urgency. They must treat these last two games with the utmost importance. They must take care of business on their own and make the playoffs.
Joe Philbin put it best in his post game victory speech after beating the Patriots, "How we finish this fourth quarter (of the season) is going to determine how the 2013 Miami Dolphins are going to be remembered."
Once you're in the tournament, anything can happen.