On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins got their season back on track. After suffering a humiliating defeat the previous week on Monday Night Football when a win slipped through their fingers against the Tennessee Titans, they stomped over the New York Jets at home, 30-0.
Even with MVP candidate Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins dominated the strong Jets defense as they had to pause due to an ankle injury. They led 24-0 at halftime and outgained New York 197 to four yards in the first half. Despite the Jets gaining 99 yards in the second half, they failed to put any points on the board. Zach Wilson got injured early, so most of the afternoon, the show belonged to Trevor Siemian.
Although the Jets were clearly understaffed, they were still playing against a division rival. After a win in Week 14 against the Houston Texans, they had a slim chance of making the playoffs.
In the NFL, no wins are small. Teams play 17 times per year, and each of these games is of enormous importance. The reaction after a humiliating performance the previous week is evidence that the Dolphins belong to the better teams in the league. However, the Jets entered this game without a viable starting quarterback. It’s unlikely that Miami will face a team with such significant issues at the most important position post-season.
Many teams that have beaten the Dolphins have this problem. This is one of the reasons why the loss on Monday night left such a pronounced scar. This season, they lost four games to the Titans. The Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, and Kansas City Chiefs. The next two games on the Dolphins‘ schedule are against the two best teams in the NFL – the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens. Then they finish the season with a home showdown against the Bills.
If the Dolphins want to host at least one playoff game, they need to do something they haven’t done all season: beat the best teams in the league. The only potential playoff team they have beaten this season was their 70-20 win against the Denver Broncos. At the time, the Broncos were 0-3 and considered one of the worst teams in the NFL. Since then, they have turned their season around.
In the next three weeks, the Dolphins will play football against teams that not only have post-season quality but also want to solidify their positioning. The Ravens are trying to secure the number one spot in the AFC, and the Cowboys will be fighting for an NFC East title. The Bills might need this win in Week 18 to even make the playoffs. If the Dolphins lose to both the Cowboys and the Ravens, this game against Buffalo will likely be for the AFC East title.
Fortunately for the Dolphins, they responded after their collapse on Monday night. They played against a division opponent and needed this win to reach 10 this year. Although they have not mathematically secured a playoff spot yet, 10 wins should be enough to make the playoffs, even if they lose the next three games.
However, if they end the regular season with three losses against these tough teams, they will have every reason to play the „Nobody believes in us“ card in the playoffs. If the Dolphins fail to win at least one of these games, no one outside of that locker room and their loved ones will believe they have a chance at a good playoff run.