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What Sunday's game in San Diego means to the Dolphins

Has everyone taken a step back from the ledge now that we've had some time to digest that loss on Monday night?  We're only one-eighth of the way through the season, folks.  The sky isn't falling...yet.  Don't jump...yet.

If you've been visiting this site long enough, then you know that I try to be one of the most optimistic Dolphin fans around.  After all, it's not likely that any season will ever be worse than what we lived through in 2007.  So let's take some solace in that.  But with that said, even I will admit that this past loss was a very hard one to swallow - mainly because the Dolphins executed the offensive gameplan to near perfection.  And now, even the most optimistic Dolphins fan can't sit here today and not realize just how big Sunday's game against the Chargers actually is.

It's rare that a week three game can get labeled a "must win" game - but it's very hard not to label this game like that.  Sure, 0-2 teams have recovered to make serious playoff pushes.  We saw this ourselves last season.  But how do you think 2008 plays out if the Dolphins travel up to New England and lose?  I can tell you one thing for sure - the Dolphins do not make the playoffs.  That's a fact - even if the rest of the '08 season plays out as it did after week three last year.

Of course, there were two very big differences between last season and this one.  First of all, the schedule the Dolphins faced was much easier last year than their daunting schedule this year.  And two, there were no expectations.

But an 11-5 season and a division title can change things quickly.  Suddenly the Dolphins - despite being just one year removed from a 1-15 season - entered 2009 with expectations - at least in the eyes of many fans.  Now they travel west to San Diego hoping to "salvage" a season that would have looked dramatically different if the Dolphins had found a way to knock off the Colts.

The "make or break" point of 2009

Some might think I'm crazy, but Sunday's game is indeed a "must win" if the Dolphins and their fans want to realistically keep thinking about the playoffs.  No team that started 0-3 has made the playoffs in 11 years.  and since 1990, only three teams who have lost their first three games have reached the postseason.  And of those three, only the '92 Chargers won a playoff game.

Historical numbers aside, though, just use your own head.  Is there anyone out there who actually feels confident that the Dolphins could overcome an 0-3 start to make the playoffs?  I doubt it.  Not with this schedule and in this conference.  The Dolphins would have to go 10-3 in their final 13 to have any hope of a playoff spot.  And even so, that wouldn't have been good enough last year in the AFC and might not be again this year.

The winds of change

Like I said to begin this post, I'm probably one of the most optimistic fans around.  And that's why it pains me to say that I have a bad feeling about Sunday.  And Tony Sparano isn't exactly helping me here.

Did anyone else watch both Sparano's post-game and day-after press conferences?  Was it just me or did he really look like a defeated individual?  This was the first time since Tony has been head coach that I just got a very bad vibe from him during a press conference.  He looked just devastated, in my opinion.

With that said, I did just want to hit on one last point.  What should happen if the Dolphins do lose on Sunday?  It might not be a fun thing to think about, but one must plan ahead.  And I want to go on record right now and say that if the Dolphins lose to the Chargers - regardless of how they lose - it would then be time to make the switch.

Yes - that switch.  You know - swapping Chads.

At 0-3, I don't see any reason to stick with Chad Pennington as the team's starting quarterback.  You might as well let Chad Henne get 13 games worth of experience in 2009 to help him grow as a player and to allow the coaches to form some opinions on Henne as the quarterback of the future for this franchise.  Better to evaluate him sooner rather than later.  And as much as it pains me, we'd have nothing to lose at 0-3 that would prevent the Dolphins from making the big change.

To summarize, a win on Sunday and you stay the course and hope for the best.  But a loss should result in the quarterback switch so many have been waiting for.  What that means is that Sunday's game is a "must win" not just for the Dolphins as a team, but also for Chad Pennington.

You know, that could mean Pennington puts together a great game and leaves San Diego with a win.  A starting quarterback playing for his job and a team playing for their leader is a potentially dangerous situation for an opposing team.

But then again, that could just be the optimist in me sneaking back out.