Playoffs? Playoffs? Yes, Playoffs?

No one can quite explain how it happened, but a Dolphins team that opened the year 0-3 is still very much in the AFC playoff picture. They still need some help, but if the Dolphins can sweep their final three games to get to 10-6, they will be in position to capitalize on a misstep by the Ravens and/or Patriots that could result in a wild-card spot or with a repeat showing as AFC East champions.

"We just had a playoff game (Sunday); we have another one this weekend," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "We know that it's a big one for (Tennessee), just like it's a big one for us. No different than this week's game was. So that will be our approach."

Recent fades by the Texans and Steelers might make the final two home games of the year easier than anticipated, so that sets up Sunday's trip to Tennessee (still in the hunt at 6-7) as particularly meaningful.

Sparano doesn't spend much time or effort explaining the playoff permutations to his team, but with the Dolphins looking to build on their 6-0 record the past two Decembers, it's just nice to know they've been in this situation before.

"I think the players are excited to know that right now these games mean something," Sparano said. "I know that we have a good chance here, as good a chance as some of these teams do. I think if we win games and continue to do what we're doing, it will take care of itself one way or the other."

NOTES, QUOTES

-- Coach Tony Sparano wasn't willing to elaborate on reasons behind the decision to keep rookie cornerback Vontae Davis on the bench for the first series of Sunday's win at Jacksonville.

"It's just a decision between Vontae and me," Sparano said.

But the coach made it clear he wasn't holding any grudges, inserting the first-rounder from Illinois into the game on the second series and keeping him there the rest of the afternoon. Asked Monday to cite the area of the team that has shown the most improvement since the season began, Sparano cited the secondary in general and his rookie cornerbacks in particular.

-- NT Paul Soliai hasn't always done the best job of taking advantage of the opportunity create when starter Jason Ferguson suffered a season-ending injury in Game 10 at Carolina. But Sunday at Jacksonville, Soliai was active and productive enough to earn some praise from coach Tony Sparano.

Defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers told Sparano after the game that Soliai was "right where he was supposed to be the whole game." Soliai finished with four tackles and a tackle for loss, dropping Maurice Jones-Drew for a loss of three yards midway through the third quarter.

"They didn't move him very much," Sparano said. "Paul played on his feet pretty good, I thought. He made some plays. He factored pretty good out there against a pretty good center."


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