The Miami Dolphins have played some pretty physical games this season. Baltimore, Cincinnati, Carolina, and of course Sunday against New England. New England’s visit to Miami was labeled a statement game. It was the single most important game the team has played in a very long time and the last second victory puts the Dolphins in the drivers seat for the sixth and final playoff spot. But unlike the previous weeks, Miami’s final two games will come down more to mental preparation than physicality on the field.
Miami is, on paper the better team than either of their final opponents. Despite the loss to Buffalo earlier this season in Miami, the Dolphins should never have had the game that close to begin with. Buffalo want’s to come out and smack Miami in the mouth and the Jets a week later are salivating at the opportunity to make amends for not just their drubbing a few weeks ago but their end of season out of the playoffs loss to Miami in 2008. These are divisional games and they will get physical.
For Miami however, this game needs to be about mental preparedness. These Miami Dolphins must understand that any playoff chances they have rides a thin razors edge where the slightest misstep will cost them an early exit from the season. Miami was given back their control on Sunday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers knocked off the Bengals. The Bengals now sit one game in front of the Dolphins and they have a week 17 visit with the Baltimore Ravens. If the Ravens enter that weekend one game back, the winner of that game will determine the AFC North while the loser could go home.
Miami has a half-game deficit to the Ravens but a loss to Cincinnati would move the Ravens a full game back of Miami. If the Raven beat the Bengals, then the Bengals would slide into a tie with the Phins who own the head-to-head tie-breaker. Win or lose Miami makes the playoffs provided they win their final two games.
The Dolphins can not afford to come up short in either contest and they can ill afford to allow themselves to believe the hype that is being spoken about them in the media. While New England may have been the teams statement game Buffalo could be an emotional let down. The Bills have nothing but pride to play for and knocking the Dolphins out of the chase for a playoff spot will be the only icing on an otherwise abysmal cake. If they don’t succeed then the Patriots become their 2013 swan song. Regardless, the Dolphins need to have it in their heads that they not only can win but must win.
Every game from here moving forward is a must win. It’s the playoffs starting early.