When you look at The Dolphins’ schedule it’s hard to see a playoff team. Where Miami stands right now in their development and the caliber of teams they will play this year, there are not many scenarios where Miami will make the postseason. If Miami has any hope of making the playoffs, these are the games they must win.
Week 4 @ the Bengals
Miami’s schedule begins with a rough start. Week one and two are likely losses for Miami facing the Seahawks and the Patriots. Even with Tom Brady possibly out for this game, Miami has struggled to win in Foxborough. With a win for Miami against the Browns in week three, the Thursday night game against the Bengals will be crucial.
Miami will be looking to bring their record to even with a win in Cincinnati. The game against the Bengals will be Miami’s first primetime game of the season. Miami has played well against the Bengals in recent years. The last three times they have met Miami has won. A loss here would be hard to overcome. Teams that start 1-3 only have a 15% chance of making the playoffs that season.
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Week 7 Home vs the Bills
The Dolphins were swept by Buffalo last season and that cannot happen again if they have any hopes of the playoffs. Miami needs division wins and this is an important one on their schedule. The Dolphins could be 3-3 at this point in the season, and a win here would give them a winning record heading into their bye week.
Division wins are the most important ones to making the playoffs. If there is a tie between division teams at the end of the season it comes down to divisional records. With a tough game in Buffalo in December, Miami needs to get an early win against the Bills at home.
Week 9 Home vs the Jets
Miami should win this game, but you never know with divisional games. After being swept by a mediocre Jets team last year, the Dolphins need to prove that they can compete in their own division. The Jets will likely be starting rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg if they don’t come to terms with Ryan Fitzpatrick. If the Dolphins come out strong they can get an important win at home.
This is the first week after the bye week for the Dolphins. If they want to be competitive they need to head into the second half of the season with some momentum. The Dolphins will have two weeks to prepare for this game and will have no excuse for a loss. A win here could put Miami’s record at 5-3 and 2-1 in the division.
Week 10 @ The Chargers
This game could be the turning point for the Dolphins season. Miami has played well against the Chargers in the last few years except for last season. This will be a tough game on the west coast and could mean the difference between Miami ending with 10 wins or not. The two games after the Chargers are against the Rams and 49ers, and both of these should be wins. With losses against the Ravens and Cardinals Miami could end with 7 or 8 wins with three weeks left in the season.
This is not a win that I predict for the Dolphins, but it will be a necessary one for them to have a shot at the playoffs. Philip Rivers will have his hands full with the pass rush Miami will produce, but the question will be if the Dolphins offense can put up the points to pull out a win. Miami’s offense stalled out early against the Chargers last season and they cannot have a repeat this year.
Week 15 @ Jets and Week 16 @ Bills
Playoff teams win in December, plain and simple. If the Dolphins want to be a playoff team they need to show it in December. Both of these games will be tough divisional games and will be in the cold in New York. Miami doesn’t have a great history of playing well in December in New York but will have to change that this season. The Dolphins will have to pull off back to back road wins with the playoffs on the line.
Ryan Tannehill needs to show that he can be a leader of this team. Adam Gase needs to hold the team together in the last month, which none of the last few regimes have been able to do. Injuries will have to be low and players will have to produce. If Miami can pull all of these games together they will have a shot at the post season for the first time since 2008, but it’s a long shot.