There was one more present for Miami Dolphins fans on Christmas day.
For the first time since a 2008 AFC East championship season, the Dolphins are headed to the Playoffs. Following the team’s win over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, Miami needed a loss from the Denver Broncos to lock up their ticket to the postseason. The Kansas City Chiefs handed the Broncos that loss Sunday night.
Miami’s 2016 season will now include at least a 17th game. The South Florida franchise began the season 1-4 and appeared to be headed toward another disappointing season. First-year head coach Adam Gase made some adjustments heading into Week 6 and the Dolphins have won nine of their last ten games including six straight from Week 6 through Week 12 and their last three contests.
In a strange flip from recent years, the Dolphins will head into a Week 17 contest against the New England Patriots as the team who could be looking to rest starters. The Patriots, who have won the AFC East championship for the eighth straight season, need a win or an Oakland Raiders loss next week to clinch the top-seed in the AFC, giving them home-field advantage throughout the Playoffs. While Miami could still move to the fifth seed with a win over the Patriots and a loss by the Chiefs to the Raiders, Miami could consider using Week 17 as a chance to get some of their key players some rest and give injured players a chance to heal for a week.
The Dolphins finally appear to be headed in the right direction after a decade-plus of mediocrity. In a year that was supposed to be about setting the foundation for growth in the future, the Dolphins exceeded all expectations this year and found their way to the Playoffs.
Can they continue to exceed expectations in 2016 game 17 and beyond?