With the AFC race being as tight as it is — with 11 teams having between seven and nine wins — every game down the stretch will be critical for every single team. It's almost like the playoffs have started even before the end of the regular season.

And when you match two leading contenders like the Raiders and Dolphins, what you have is almost the equivalent of a playoff game.

"I said it last week, the playoffs started last week," said defensive end Jason Taylor. "We've got to keep going. I'm glad we're playing at home. It will be nice to get the Raiders here. Hopefully, the crowd will be out there and jazzed up because I know we will be. We need this one."

The truth is, the Dolphins need all three of their remaining games if they hope to capture that elusive first-round bye in the playoffs.

"Every week is a playoff game," said cornerback Patrick Surtain. "It is wide open in the AFC. Every week is a big game and it doesn't get any bigger than this game. They have the No. 1-ranked offense in the league and we have the No. 2-ranked defense. It is going to be a great game and we are looking forward to it."

Veteran Cris Carter, who has been around for over a decade, isn't ready to compare this game to a playoff game, but he does acknowledge that the showdown against the Raiders is big.

"No, it is not a playoff game," he said. "It is not. It is a big game.

"It is a big game. We are playing at home in a game that potentially is big when you look at home field and look at a lot of different tiebreakers. You are always looking to compare if they are the best team in the AFC. You like to compare against them. We just want to play good, solid football. If we do that, then we believe it gives us the best chance to win the game."

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