Could the Miami Dolphins somehow find their way to the playoffs this season?
The Miami Dolphins have won their last two games, after seven losses to open the season, and suddenly playoff talk to popping up all over the place. Yesterday, Omar Kelly took a look at the AFC Playoff picture, trying to predict who would win the four divisions and the two wild card playoff spots.
I figured, this morning it was my turn to look at the AFC playoff picture, and see if the Dolphins have an unrealistic shot at pulling off a miracle.
Kelly related something Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby said:
"I went to the Super Bowl at 9-7 so it can be done," Dansby said, referring to a 2008 Arizona team that lost four of its last six games, but made it to Super Bowl XLIII, which the Cardinals lost 27-23 to the Steelers.
"Guys are believing in it," Dansby said, referring to the team's altered approach. "We're coming in week in and week out trying to get better. We have an opportunity to right the end of this season."
So, would it be possible for the Dolphins to win out, and somehow claim a wildcard playoff berth?
First, a look at the Dolphins remaining schedule. The Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills this Sunday, a game Miami can win. The Bills have been hit by the injury bug recently, and aren't looking as strong as they did early in the year.
Immediately following that game, the Dolphins have a Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, reuniting about 653 players and coaches with the Cowboys. Again, this is a game the Dolphins could win - particularly if Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo plays like - well, Tony Romo. The Dolphins defense has been stepping it up (seven weeks too late guys, but thanks for playing) lately, and if they can continue that string, they should be able to force Romo into some mistakes.
With the semi-bye week, after a Thursday night game, the Dolphins host the Oakland Raiders. The Radiers seem to be finding a groove with Carson Palmer at the helm, and should be preparing to win the AFC West - but they are beatable. If Miami can come in with a solid game plan, and play up to their talent level, a win here is possible - particularly with the game being in Miami, meaning the Raiders have to travel from the west coast to the east.
Week 14 could be a problem for the Dolphins. The "Dream Team" Philadelphia Eagles come into Sun Life Stadium with a ton of talent - but haven't been able to put it together yet this year. Now, there are reports that Vick played the entire game last Sunday (save for the first two offensive snaps) with two broken ribs. And, Vick looked like a player playing with two broken ribs. Depending on how quickly Vick can heal, the Dolphins could be facing Vince Young instead of Vick - which would be a bonus to Miami. Again, a lot of things have to fall the Dolphins way - but in this fantasy land, why not assume the Dolphins could pull this off.
The last three weeks of the year give Miami no breaks. But, the Dolphins also know their opponents incredible well. Miami head north to Buffalo in Week 15, meaning a snowy December 18 game against the Bills. Then, they turn around and play another snowy game in Foxboro against the New England Patriots. Finally, the Dolphins finish the year at home against the New York Jets. If everything falls into place for the Dolphins, these three games could be the determining factor in a Miami playoff hunt.
So, if Miami sweeps their last 9 games, and somehow walks away with a 9-7 season, would that be enough for a wild card spot?
Running down the 16 teams of the AFC, the current standings look like:
1. Houston Texans (7&3) - Arian Foster can't go, sure the Texans can still win. Foster's back, but Andre Johnson can't go, sure the Texans can still win. But, now, Matt Schaub is out for the year, and Matt Leinart is the Houston starting quarterback. They are completely capable of falling apart and either squeaking into the playoffs, or missing altogether.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (7&3) - Should win the AFC North.
3. New England Patriots (6&3) - Should win the AFC East. They have the easiest schedule from now to the end of the year, so the number one seed in the AFC should be their's.
4. Oakland Raiders (5&4) - Should win the AFC West.
5. Baltimore Ravens (6&3) - The Ravens haven't looked like a dominating, sure to make the playoffs recently, but they should be able to put it together and find the first wild card slot.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (6&3) - A great start to the season, but will drop rapidly as the tougher teams on the schedule start reminding Cincinnati they are starting a rookie quarterback and a rookie wide receiver.
7. New York Jets (5&4) - Could they claim the last wild card position? Sure. Could they completely collapse and find themselves out of the playoffs? Sure.
8. Buffalo Bills (5&4) - A very talented team, but I think they are coming back to Earth after their hot start. I wouldn't be surprised if they still become the doormat of the AFC East.
9. Tennessee Titans (5&4) - If the Texans do collapse, the Titans will take the AFC South. But, with Atlanta, New Orleans, and Houston still on the schedule, 9&7 might be the best they could hope for.
10. San Diego Chargers (4&5) - Might be on a bigger nose dive than the Colts. This team is a mess, and doesn't seem to know how to get out of the funk. Baltimore, at Detroit, and at Oakland to finish the year should finish the Chargers playoff chances.
11. Denver Broncos (4&5) - The Tebow magic can't continue forever. Jets, at Chargers, Chicago, New England, at Buffalo, and Kansas City should ensure the Broncos don't have a playoff prayer.
12. Kansas City Chiefs (4&5) - The Chiefs lost to the Dolphins and the Broncos over the last two weeks, so it's not exactly like they've been dominating the league. And, now, it looks like starting quarterback Matt Cassel is out for the year with a injured throwing hand. The Chiefs are out of the playoff hunt.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (3&6) - At least they finish the year playing the Colts again. Otherwise, it's going to be a rough outing the rest of the way.
14. Cleveland Browns (3&6) - Baltimore twice and Pittsburgh twice to go. At the best, the Browns are looking at 6-10.
15. Miami Dolphins (2&7).
With those thoughts, the AFC playoffs should end up looking like:
Is it a long shot? Of course it is. Is there any chance I actually think this will happen? Nope. Miami is going to drop at least one of these next 7 games - and probably several. But, it doesn't hurt to hope. And, I know I will be rooting every week for it to happen.
And, as Lloyd says in the all-time classic Dumb and Dumber, "So, you're telling me there's a chance...."