The Miami Dolphins are young, their draft picks are hitting, and this team currently is winning. Fans should be thrilled.
Eight weeks ago, there were whispers that the Dolphins wanted to trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. That died down, and since then, QB Tua Tagovailoa and their physical defense has led the Dolphins to a seven-game win streak. Everything in Miami has swung into the positive column over the last few weeks, yet I am not a believer.
Look at the teams they have beaten: The Jets twice, the Giants, the Texans, the Panthers, and the Saints — a team that had players who head coach Sean Payton met for the first time hours before the game.
Any win in the NFL is a good thing, but this Dolphins offense has not been tested against a great defense, or a great team.
As for their QB, I had an NFL scout pass this along to me Tuesday morning.
He pointed out this passing chart for Tagovailoa over the last seven games:
· 0-10 yards he is 78% on 124 throws
· 10-20 yards he is 40% on 52 throws
· 20+ he is 47% on 21 throws.
So, what does this tell you? He is getting the ball out quickly. They are a run-pass-option-heavy offense and they keep it simple.
Tagovailoa gets the job done, the job they ask him to do.
Is this maintainable long-term?
We’ll get into Tua and whether Miami should move on in the offseason, but whether this team actually can contend the next few weeks is the big question.
The Dolphins control their own destiny. If they win out, they are in. Easier said than done, as they face the Titans -- who still don’t have running back Derrick Henry back -- on Sunday in Nashville, and then the Patriots.
Bottom line, they are going to need Tua to find ways to win and based on what we’ve seen, and how the play caller calls these game, I’m not sure he will be able to do it. In the playoffs, you need courageous, miraculous playmakers like Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Josh Allen, not just to keep you in it, but often to bail you out. (You also need a fierce offensive line, which is missing on the Dolphins.)
Will I be shocked if Miami makes the playoffs? No. Will they last long if they do? No way.
Modified Covid protocols:
Covid exhaustion is legit, and I have felt it for months, so I haven’t written about it too much here. However, the recent modifications are worth mentioning as we are just two weeks away from the start of the NFL playoffs. Late Tuesday afternoon the NFL and NFLPA agreed to modify the protocols in accordance with new CDC guidelines, cutting the standard isolation period after a positive test for asymptomatic individuals from 10 days to five days, regardless of vaccination status. This all happened on the same day that Colts QB Carson Wentz popped up on the Covid-19 exempt list. He is unvaccinated and wasn’t going to be able to play on Sunday against the Raiders based on league protocols. Now, he is eligible to play as long as he has no symptoms. So, Wentz will most likely play and the better news for the Colts is, now that he’s on the Covid list, he gets a 90-day test-free window that takes them through the Super Bowl.
You know the Saints’ Payton saw these modifications Tuesday and probably threw a fit, especially after he had to play the Dolphins significantly short-handed on Monday Night Football.
Who knows if these modifications will help slow down this pandemic, but for pure football fandom and competitiveness, this is the best thing to happen in the NFL with just a few days left in 2021.
The AFC Jam
The NFL playoff chase this year has been more like … gridlock. Entering the final two weeks of the season, 24 teams are still mathematically in the race, matching the second-highest total in 31 years!
And nowhere is the traffic more congested than in the AFC, where the Chiefs are the ONLY team to clinch a playoff spot so far. It’s the first time in 10 years that a conference has only had one team in with two weeks to play.
Per Espn, Chiefs: 63% chance No. 1 seed in AFC
Week 17 should provide more separation, with the Bills, Titans, Colts and Patriots all carrying a greater than 95 percent chance to make the playoffs and opportunities to clinch on Sunday.
Best AFC Playoff Chances:
(According to ESPN’S FPI)
The Bengals – taking advantage of a 4-game slide in Baltimore – now have the inside track in the AFC North, carrying a 73% chance to win the division. Cincinnati can clinch with a win.
Chance to Win AFC North:
Miami’s Monday night win has the Dolphins idling with three other teams at 8-7, alongside the Ravens, Raiders and Chargers. Of those teams, the Chargers have the best chance to make the playoffs currently at 34.8%.
Chance to Make Playoffs:
In all, there are 73 different combinations of 1st-round playoff matchups possible in the AFC! While the Chiefs sit in pole position, the rest of the AFC’s race to the finish promises to deliver more drama in Week 17.