The Miami Dolphins held out hope internally at least that they could somehow turnaround a bad season and make the playoffs. With five game remaining in a season that seemed over with two months ago, the Dolphins don’t have to hope anymore. The best they can do is finish .500 and hope that every other team in the AFC falls flat on their faces every week. That won’t happen either. So they turn to the role of spoiler.
No one likes to play this role. It means you have nothing else to play for and you really are just going through the motions to get through what’s left of the season and move on into the off-season where you can reinvigorate your hopes and dreams for next year. It’s really just semantics. We go through the motions and work the numbers and try to stay on top of what little we can control. Beating teams who have a shot at the playoffs when we don’t so we feel better when it all ends. So we can say “man, if we only did this or we only did that”. It’s the role of the spoiler.
It’s not fun.
This year, the Dolphins can play spoiler to the Raiders, Jets, Patriots, and Bills. But they stand most to spoil the season for someone else.
First up is the Raiders. A loss to Miami will not curtail their season but it will make them have to work that much harder. The Raiders hold a one game lead in the AFC West over the Tim Tebow led Denver Broncos. A loss to Miami a week from now should the standings remain the same over the weekend, would put the West into chaos. This week the Raiders face the Bears while the Broncos face the Chargers and the Chiefs are set up for another thumping, this time to Pittsburgh. If the Raiders lose to the Bears, regardless of what happens between the Broncos and Chargers the Raiders will either be tied for first or hold a slim one game lead over both of those opponents. So facing the Dolphins next week could send them into a three way tie for first or out of first all together.
The Raiders will face the Dolphins who will have had almost 10 days of rest and play at home.
Following the Raiders, the Dolphins will face the Eagles. This is not one of those games that will spoil a season as the Eagles have pretty much done that already. While they have a slim shot at winning the division, a loss to Miami will surely put the final nail in that “dream team” talk.
The Dolphins will wrap their season with division opponents. A win over the Bills will continue their slide and depending on what happens this Sunday between them and the Jets, the Dolphins may not be a team that matters either way. In fact, by that week, the Bills could already be eliminated for the most part and may simply be trying to salvage dignity…like Miami did for the last three of four weekends.
The Jets are a different story, they feel they need to win out to have a legit shot at the post-season. That means they have to beat Miami in three weeks. Miami tends to play the Jets tough and Tony Sparano has lost only one game to the “Cropdusters” in his four year tenure. Beating the Jets this year will not be as satisfying as knocking off the Brett Favre led team of four years ago but it will most assuredly put the Jets in front of the TV for playoffs.
If the Dolphins want to play spoiler to the Patriots they won’t get that chance barring a collapse over the next few weeks by the Patriots themselves. In reality, the best Miami can hope for is a chance to make them play on the road at least one game this post-season. The Patriots and Ravens are in a home field advantage fight with the edge today going to the Ravens. A loss by the Ravens and the Patriots may have it going into the final weekend of regular season. A loss to the Dolphins there could send it back to Baltimore.
While the Dolphins will try and spoil the remaining possibilities for the teams above, winning could also spoil the spirits of many fans who still hold out hope of a top five pick in next years draft and a shot at a franchise QB. The loss to Dallas moved the Dolphins back down to fifth overall with this weekends games yet to be played. The team could move up as high as two by years end or fall back as far as 17th to 20th. There are three teams with records of 3-7 and will either join Miami at 3-8 or move a game ahead of them. There are three teams currently with two wins. Carolina plays winless Indianapolis while St. Louis plays the 3-7 Cardinals. By the end of the weekend, the Dolphins will not likely be sitting in the five spot but could move up or down.
Winning out or even a portion of those games will directly effect the Dolphins draft standings. It’s a major obstacle for any fan to cheer on a loss of the team they follow so closely, but some find a way to reason it. With the season out of reach and no hope in changing that, the difference between winning out and losing out could be about 10-15 draft positions. It could mean the difference between a possible franchise QB or mid-first round right tackle.
Of course, if you really come down to it, I don’t think any fan can justify losing in the face of knocking the Jets out of the playoff picture or the Patriots off the top seed in the AFC.