Loss to Bucs diminishes playoff hopes for Miami


Mathematically, the Dolphins are still well within reach of their second consecutive playoff berth, but realistically, their chances continue to dwindle.

The 2017 NFL season for the Miami Dolphins is beginning to look the complete opposite of their 2016 season. In 2016, Miami started off the season with a 1-4 record, and arguably looked like the worst team in the league at the time. Their lone win in that span was an overtime victory over the hopeless Cleveland Browns, and it was the Browns in that game who did everything they could to give the game away, and eventually succeeded.

After the Dolphins were manhandled by the Titans at home, however, Adam Gase sparked a fire in the team by letting go of players that he felt were bringing the team down. It was a surprising move at the time, but it was effective. The Dolphins made a major turnaround after that, winning their last 9 of 11 to clinch the final playoff spot in the AFC.

This season, Miami started off fairly well with a 4-2 record. Their wins were all in dramatic fashion, but the way they fought themselves back into those games to come away victorious showed that they could be resilient, and handle adversity. Since then, however, the Dolphins have lost four straight, and are trending in the opposite direction.

Gase replicated his purge from last season some with the surprising trade of Jay Ajayi, but it has not had the same effect as it did a year ago. After their embarrassing 40-0 loss to Baltimore on a short week, the Dolphins have followed that with three straight losses, two of which were at home against subpar teams. It’s a shame too when you consider where Miami sits in the playoff hunt.

A highly optimistic Dolphins fan would point to the current standings where the Dolphins still sit just one game back from the sixth seed, despite being just 4-6. With three straight losses of their own, Buffalo has now moved out of the final spot, with Baltimore now holding claim. With such a logjam of teams at .500 or below, Miami continues to get chances to move into the playoff picture, but they’ve failed to capitalize.

Now the Dolphins will go on the road to play the Patriots in what is expected to be a lopsided game. They’ll play the Patriots again two weeks from Monday when they host them at Hard Rock Stadium. With the way these two teams are playing, Miami will likely lose both meetings, which would give them eight losses on the season for sure.

Every other team remaining on the Dolphins schedule is struggling just as much as they are. Miami plays host to Denver in between the meetings with New England. The Broncos have lost six in a row, but that doesn’t guarantee victory for the Dolphins by any stretch. Then, they will play Buffalo twice in three weeks to close out the season with a meeting against Kansas City in between that. The Chiefs once looked like the favorites in the AFC with a 5-0 start, but have since lost 4 of 5.

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Assuming Miami loses both games to the Patriots, and they win all of their other remaining games, that still leaves them at 8-8, and likely out of the playoffs. Even if they are able to sneak in, they’ll likely have to play Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, or possibly even the Patriots again. All three of these teams are far superior to the Dolphins talent wise, and would probably blow Miami out in the first round similar to how Pittsburgh did last season.

The truth is, as much as it hurts to admit, the Dolphins simply are not that good this season. Losing Ryan Tannehill during training camp was a big hit for this team, and then Raekwon McMillan in the preseason sure didn’t help matters for Miami’s defense. Rooting for the Dolphins to lose the rest of the way to secure a better draft pick may not be the best course of action, but it’s time for fans to admit that this is not our year.

The officiating has not been kind to Miami in recent weeks, but they still should have found ways to at least beat Oakland and Tampa Bay. Because they couldn’t, it shows that they still have some growing pains to go through. More changes will need to be made heading into next season – both on and off the field. The good thing about the NFL is that a team can quickly turn things around for the better.

Jacksonville is doing it this year, among others, and the Dolphins themselves have done it plenty of times. In 2008, Miami went 11-5 to win the AFC East after going 1-15 in 2007. I’m confident that Miami can make themselves a contender in 2018 with good decision-making, and hopefully staying healthy. Neither of those things have occurred for them this year, however, making any kind of run a long shot at best.