Last week the Dolphins punched their ticket to the playoffs with a 34 – 31 overtime win over the division rival Buffalo Bills. This week they have a difficult choice heading back to Miami to play the Patriots, do they rest their players and likely lose to a patriots team gunning for the #1 seed in the playoffs and settle for the 6th seed and play the Steelers in the first round, or do they go all out and try and get the 5th seed but potentially risk further injury going into the playoffs. Their choice will become clear this Sunday at 12 CST.
Last time these two teams played each other the Patriots were without starting quarterback Tom Brady and still managed to beat the Dolphins 31 – 24 despite having to play 3rd string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. However, the Patriots have lost in Miami the past three times they’ve played there. I feel like the outcome of this game depends on how the Dolphins want to play it. If the Dolphins rest their starters they’ll lose 10 – 35. If they play their starters and go for the win I think they narrowly get the win 24 – 21.
A win here with a Kansas City loss would give the Dolphins the 5th seed in the playoffs and the potential to host a game in the playoffs. A loss here means the Dolphins would face an even greater challenge than anything they’ve had to thus far because they would have to beat the Steelers and the Patriots in their respective home fields in back to back weeks.
As for injuries, the Dolphins continue to get healthier decreasing from 8 players last week to 6 this week. Offensively quarterback Ryan Tannehill (knee) did not practice is listed as out and running back Jay Ajayi (shoulder) full practice is listed as questionable. Defensively linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee) did not practice is listed as doubtful, cornerback Byron Maxwell (ankle) did not practice is listed as doubtful, linebacker Spencer Paysinger (knee) full practice is listed as questionable, and defensive end Mario Williams (ankle) full practice is listed as questionable.
As for special teams on kick returns, returners Jakeem Grant and Kenyan Drake were nearly identical in their respective returns of 41 and 39 yards each. As for punt returns Jarvis Landry once again was the only returner getting 16 and 19 yards off of his two returns. Kicker Andrew Franks missed a field goal last week but made one when it mattered most finishing 2/3 on field goals and 4/4 on extra points, should the Dolphins rest their starters it would be wise to use this game as a confidence builder for Franks by focusing on his kicking ability so as to avoid a Blair Walsh situation in the playoffs.
When the Dolphins began this season few believed they would make an impact, much less even make the postseason, yet here they are one week away from their first playoff game in eight years. This feels like an entirely new organization and a team that’s played like a team, no real standouts, a few big names here and there, but statistically they’re unified playing as a collective unit balancing one another offense, defense, and special teams all in rotation where if one unit struggles one week the others make up for it. This feels like and has the makings to be something very special in not only the coming weeks but the coming seasons. Only time will tell if this team is just a mirage (see the 2008 season) or the real deal (see the early 70’s seasons).