The Miami Dolphins are in a playoff race. A playoff race in December. From last year's Suck for Luck campaign back through the 1-15 season leading to Jake Long being selected with the first overall pick, December games have more often been about draft position for Miami than the postseason. But. this year, with the playoffs in reach, the Dolphins are very aware of the importance of everyone one of these games.
"Every game from here on out is a playoff game," linebacker Kevin Burnett told the Miami Herald's Adam H. Beasley this week.
"You never know what straw's going to break the camel's back, but you've got to know that that straw is coming. You have to start shaking the straws off, not adding them on."
The Dolphins start those "playoff games" today against their AFC East division rival New England Patriots. New England has a strangle hold on the division, three games ahead of the Dolphins and able to clinch the title with a win today. But, Miami is just one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the chase of a Wild Card berth.
"You've got to live in the moment, and right now, this moment only comes around once in a lifetime," linebacker Karlos Dansby said, echoing Burnett's sentiment. "It's go time. This is our playoffs."
No game in Sun Life Stadium may feel more like a playoff game this year. The stadium sees its first true sellout in a long time, with owner Stephen Ross not having to buy tickets just to make sure the team appears on local television. With a full stadium, and meaningful December football, today could have a sight not often seen in Miami - an inspired home-field-advantage.
Can the Dolphins use that home field advantage to make meaningful December football winning football? The road is not going to be easy, but its the road the Dolphins have to travel. Can they make the dream of January football a reality?
It all starts today with the Patriots.