Even though the path to the postseason has gotten more difficult for the Miami Dolphins, the team still has multiple ways of making it into this season’s playoffs.
“If the Dolphins (8-6) win their next two games against visiting Green Bay on Sunday (1 p.m., Fox) and at the [New England] Patriots on Jan. 1, the Dolphins would clinch a playoff berth,” Jackson wrote.
“The Dolphins also would clinch a playoff berth by beating the Patriots and then beating the visiting Jets on Jan. 8, even if the Dolphins lose to the [Green Bay] Packers.
“If the Dolphins beat the Packers and Jets but not the Patriots, Miami would have a 95 percent chance to make the playoffs, per fivethirtyeight.com. In this scenario, Miami would clinch a playoff berth with wins against the Packers and Jets and a Patriots loss to Cincinnati on Saturday or at Buffalo on Jan. 8.
“But if the Dolphins beat the Packers and lose to the Jets and Patriots, Miami would have just a 33 percent chance to make the playoffs, per fivethirtyeight. If the Dolphins lose to both Green Bay and New England and beat the Jets, they have a 75 percent chance to make it. And if the Dolphins beat the Patriots and lose to the Packers and Jets, they would have a 64 percent chance to make it.”
In assessing the different possibilities, the first two are the easiest to comprehend, since they simply put the Dolphins’ fate in their own hands.
Losing to the Packers on Sunday won’t necessarily destroy the Dolphins’ chances to reach the postseason, but it does narrow that path.
Prior to the Dolphins’ three-game losing streak, the team seemed on target to return to the postseason. Then came consecutive losses to the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills.
The latest defeat against the Bills, came in painful fashion as the Dolphins watched their AFC East foes kick a game-winning field goal at the end of the game. The loss virtually clinched the AFC East for Buffalo.
One key aspect of the Dolphins having two home games left is that the team has compiled a 5-1 record this season at Hard Rock Stadium. The lone loss came against the Minnesota Vikings, when starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remained sidelined by concussions.
Tagovailoa has had a strong season on the field, with 24 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. Avoiding pickoffs has been one key to his success leading the Dolphins this year, with the team winning seven of the nine games in which he’s avoided throwing an errant toss.
Yet, Tagovailoa can’t be expected to do it all, even if he has major weapons in the receiving tandem of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The Dolphins need to have a running game to balance the offense.
Having a running attack that can gain better than 100 yards in a game has usually meant success for Tagovailoa’s leadership. Four of the five games in which the Dolphins have broken that threshold has been with Tagovailoa, with the only loss in that quartet coming in last Saturday night’s heartbreaker.
By starting off with a win over the Packers, the Dolphins can help their fan base breathe easier and digest its Christmas dinner.