The once 1-7 Miami Dolphins are… .500? Seems like not too long ago Miami was in rock bottom with no way out, shaping themselves as one of the biggest disappointments of the 2021 season. Fast forward to December and after sweeping the Jets for the year these same Dolphins are now seen as one of the league’s most dangerous teams, you never know what you’re getting with Miami and that’s exactly what makes them such a wildcard.
This weekend was a prime example of that, the Dolphins came out flat and uninspired against an underwhelming New York Jets team. Brian Flores and DC Josh Boyer couldn’t find rhythm with their defense at first, and QB Tua Tagovailoa was struggling to do the same on the field with the offense. But it didn’t take long before Dolphins RB Duke Johnson caught fire rushing for 107 yards and 2 TDs, which was assisted by an offensive line that turned into a bulldozer.
Although Tua struggled (197 Yds, 2 TDs, 2 INT) it was relieving to see someone step up on offense to pick up the slack, as well as seeing the defense clean up their mistakes to come back and dominate on the field.
However it’s important to note that the Miami Dolphins caught fire during the softest part of their schedule, 6 wins straight and a 7-7 record puts the Dolphins in a good spot to make a playoff push if they win out. However the Saints, Titans, and Patriots could prove to be the toughest matchups Miami has faced all year. And if the Dolphins really want to give themselves a chance the margin for error is microscopic, zero, below zero. Given that all these teams are desperate to win in order to keep chasing a playoff spot.
The Dolphins biggest strength is their defense, so they have to stay dominant:
Dolphins fans still have plenty of reasons to be optimistic while also taking it one game at a time, during the last 5 games Miami ranks top 5 in points allowed (14.3), and top 10 in takeaways per game (1.7). This was the Dolphins secret recipe for defensive success last year, a disrespectful defense full of thieves ready to steal the ball from the other team’s offense and make them pay for their mistakes.
Let’s also not forget that also during this stretch Miami is also only giving up 85.7 rushing yards per game, which ranks them top 5 in the NFL. and are ranked #2 in passing yards allowed (139.7). you could say that this defense is one of the most dominant forces in the league right now, but that is also due to facing weaker offenses. I don’t want to take credit away because they are still being dominant over NFL teams, but I would like to see how they match up against more firepower.
The next 3 games are exactly that and I’m looking forward to see if these matchups establish the Dolphins as an elite defense, or exposes them for being pretenders. But this is not only up to our defense because the offensive side of the ball needs to do their job as well.
The offense goes as their QB goes:
Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa has been playing great football as of late, with the exception of this Sunday’s matchup vs the Jets. And from this I have two main takeaways. 1) The QB can’t be the savior of the offense all the time, and it’s relieving to know that players are capable of stepping up when Tua struggles (RB Duke Johnson 107 Yds, 2 TDs). 2) The team also can’t afford their QB struggling often, so it’s important for Tua Tagovailoa to have a bounce-back game with his next performance. As of late Tagovailoa has stepped up to the moment and shown the fire you want to see from your starting QB, so I’m sure he will come back and have a strong performance.
Next week’s matchup vs the New Orleans Saints will be a very tough test for this offense, if you watched SNF this past Sunday you saw the way the Saints defensive line completely manhandled one of the best offensive lines in the league. You probably saw how DE Cam Jordan annihilated one of the best RT in the NFL Tristan Wirfs, will be interesting to see how he matches up against mighty Dolphins RT Jesse Davis.
Sarcasm obviously, however the offensive line did perform better against the Jets, allowing the least amount of pressures, hurries, and sacks that they have all season. as well as leading the way for Duke Johnson to run his tail off, I hope the OL keeps building on this momentum and brings their best game vs the Saints on Monday Night Football.
The Dolphins running game has been close to non-existent all year with the exception of RB Duke Johnson’s electric performance against the Jets, in which he rushed for 107 yards and 2 TDs making it the first 100+ yard game for a Dolphins RB all season. But can they find that same magic vs New Orleans?
The Saints rank 6th in rushing defense giving up only 96.6 YPG all year, so I doubt we will see an encore performance from Duke Johnson this week. The Dolphins will most likely go back to a pass heavy offense relying on short yardage throws and high efficiency to move the chains, a much more likely scenario given that the Saints rank 17th in passing yards allowed (240.2 YPG). Pretty middle of the pack if you ask me.
I know you’re about to go in the comments and say that the Saints completely shut down QB Tom Brady, but for one the Saints have Brady’s number, Bucs players were beat to hell, and Bucs receivers were down to 4th and 5th stringers. Just a couple weeks ago the very inconsistent Buffalo Bills embarrassed the Saints 31-6, and the underwhelming Philadelphia Eagles dropped a 40 bomb on their head. So yeah I think we got a good chance at pulling this off.
But who are we now? and where are we headed?
After this Sunday’s win vs the New York Jets the playoff hype is very real, and all of us should be excited for it. But it’s important to note that the Dolphins don’t control their own destiny, and until they pull off another signature win against a playoff team they’ll just be considered a feel good story.
Do I think were going to make the playoffs? I think it’s highly likely if we win out, these next 3 games vs the Saints, Titans, and Patriots will give the answer to if we belong or not. Elite teams are able to perform against elite competition, and pretenders get exposed.
So no matter if we get the good or bad ending, I think we all will be pretty relieved with finishing up the full painting on the 2021 season. And having clarity on what this team actually is.