We might as well throw the 8-3 record out the window. December is here.

This is the time of year when us Dolphins fans begin by saying, “We control our own destiny.” “If we win, we’re in.” Etc.

By mid-December, that changes to, “Well, we can still make it as a wild card.”

And finally, that evolves into “We need help from other teams.”

Except for our Tank for Tua year when we had no chance from the get-go, it’s been the same for a long, long time. So forgive me for being a Grinch here, albeit a realistic Grinch.

Let’s start with the overall standings. We sit at 8-3 and are seeded fourth in the AFC. We have a very strong chance of making the playoffs, but the seeding is all important. We want to win the division. To be greedy, we want the #1 seed and a bye.

The Bills choking against the Eagles certainly helped, but the Bills still look scary. Since they hired a new offensive coordinator a few weeks ago, they have scored 30+ points per game. They are 6-6 now, with games vs. KC and Dallas and even the Chargers coming up. Lets say they beat two of those teams plus the Patriots. They head into Miami for Week 18 at 9-7.

The Dolphins lost to Buffalo already, so the Bills only need to tie us to win the division. So if we go into that final game at 10-6, we’ll be fighting for the division, and I will not like our chances. So in my Buffalo 9-7 scenario, we have to enter the final game at 11-5, not 10-6. At 11-5, we are guaranteed the division, provided the Bills don’t win out.

So my goal is 11-5, and we are 8-3 now. Beating doormats like Washington, Titans, and Jets would get us there. Of those three, the upcoming Commander game worries me most. Sunday’s forecast is cold and rainy, neither of which favors the Dolphins. Don’t get me wrong. We should win. Sam Howell is not going to put up 30 points on us, but can we get to 20?

We can rest our starters in Week 18 provided that we win the next three winnable games and the Bills lose any of those games to Dallas, KC, or LAC.

Then, the Dolphins beating Baltimore and Dallas would be huge (but not required).

The other side of this is the seeding. All four AFC leaders won yesterday, so we made up no ground. We do have a chance to take a huge step and leapfrog ahead of Baltimore if we beat them in Week 17, but a lot of things go into that. KC beats us in head-to-head tiebreakers, but that head-to-head rule is irrelevant if it’s a 3 or 4-way tie.

As we enter December, I’m also concerned about Tua’s recent play. That Pick-6 gift he gave to the Jets is his worst pass since he became a Dolphin. Just brutal on every level. Didn’t see the defender there in waiting. Didn’t set his feet. Noodle-sidearmed it weakly. Hurried the pass to begin it all.

Can’t keep saying “Can’t do that” and expect it to go away. Something needs to be corrected.

I watched the Eagles and Bills, and the difference between their offenses and ours is striking. I realized just how much we rely on the big electric play, and how often we fail when it’s not there. If you think about all those big strikes early in the season, they were all extremely quick dropbacks and fast releases by Tua. They look great and they succeed.

But defenses have been taking those away. And Tua seems–I hate to say it–a bit lost when they’re taken away. He’s simply not one to shuffle right or left to escape a rush, replant his feet, and find option number two. That’s exactly what Allen and Hurts were doing yesterday, moving around, buying time, finding open men, or sprinting ahead on their own for game-winning scores. Unfortunately, NONE of that is in our playbook.

I’m fine with that. Our offense works differently from other elite offenses. But Mike McDaniel absolutely must come up with counter options for Tua when the first read is covered. Even when Tua has time and no pass rusher is near him, if that first option is not open, he’s not getting the ball cleanly to option #2.

I think this is correctable. You have to approach your game plan in December by NOT thinking “We are an invincible record-setting offense,” but rather, McDaniel needs to recognize that we’re being stopped a lot lately. We’re stopping ourselves a lot lately. “Let’s draw up a few ways to get over this.”

Throwing TWO separate interceptions inside of the 2-minite warning is not the way. Let’s put that in our rearview fast.


  1. Totally agree about the pick-6, that was terrible. Tua’s second interception I have less of a problem with because everyone knew that throw had to go to the sideline and the Jets are no scrubs on defense. Also thanks to that pick we got our own pick-6. In my opinion, Tua’s biggest weakness has been showing the last few weeks, and that is his frantic energy. You can always put him down for at least 2 drives in a game where he gets happy feet and goes off the rails (for various reasons). I don’t know what the answer is for that, but I see it every week. I am hopeful that he and McD can find some ways to help him out with those times. Phillips going out like that was heartbreaking. I’m never going to second guess when to take guys off the field, but that was brutal. Looks like the Gink is gonna get his chance to make a big impact the rest of the way.

    1. Author

      Ya know, every year a good team loses a good player, and the fans are crushed. The opponent fans are thinking, “Great! now we don’t have to face Phillips.” But good teams always find a way to win. Don’t know if we’re there yet, but I think Ogbah will get to shine more than Van Ginkel. We’ll see. i remember Von Miller was out when we played the Bills in Week 4, and they stull destroyed us. Fangio has to keep it up and use the talent we have. Miami just signed Jason Pierre-Paul to replace Phillips, by the way.

      1. I think it will be very beneficial that Phillips missed those couple games earlier in the year, I felt like the defense was more than capable then and even better now with Ramsey back. I don’t hate the JPP pickup for some depth on the bench and some postseason/SB experience to add on that defense. Also, I didn’t realize the weather was gonna be so crap this weekend, very curious how much Tua has improved in the rain since that game in Tennessee 2 years ago

        1. Author

          True, we did get some work in without Phillips, and it wasn’t horrible. I’d like to see Ogbah step up, though, rather than asking Van Gink to play every snap. Fangio is usually hesitant when talking about Ogbah, I think Ogbah excelled in Boyer’s system, but Fangio sees him as so-so

  2. When you know that the weather will be crap for your upcoming game, that’s something that you can easily prepare for – by simply using Wet footballs in practice.
    Tua needs this the most, and McD would be making a terrible mistake – if he doesn’t do that. We may get a glimpse of whether they do that or not, in next weeks hard knocks (this week’s episode will be the jests game) And I agree that this upcoming Washington game will be the toughest to win, out of the next 3 games.

  3. As we had discussed your points previously, I am in total agreement!

    Tua is a below average quarterback after the first read is not available. And i honestly do not see it getting “fixed”. This is Tua’s shortcoming and thus the Dolphins shortcoming.

    Also, those two interceptions before half-time seem more like brain-farts, which makes me think he is still suffering some ill effects of the previous concussions?

    To get to the final level (like any playoff/SuperBowl caliber team), this really requires a player (usually a QB, sometimes a RB) to be able to ad-lib and adjust in real-time and make a play to get the first down (as you, Admin, discussed with Allen & Hurts examples). Tua is not doing this.

    Instead, in December, I think we are going to have to rely on the following to take pressure of Tua:
    + our running game
    + getting Achane back so that we can return to pre-snap motion (I am ok for waiting for the Cowboys Xmas eve game before Achane return, to allow his full healing time and friendlier warm and turf)
    + our defense (no duh)
    + Coach McDaniel acknowledgement that our fancy offense can be stopped on any play, especially on 4th and one, either by defense or by offense mistakes in execution . The easy offense days of earlier season will not be the norm in December. Kick a FG dammit! – do not leave points on the table

    1. Author

      All well said. I have liked Tua from day one and I support him fully. but still, I have to point out the flaws when they appear.
      We all agree and notice that Tua gets discombobulated when his first read is covered. He does not simply move up into the pocket and look for target #2. instead, he seems to sprint right or left and gun the ball anywhere. in the past he was airmailing the ball. Lately he’s been throwing grounders.
      If he has Hill on a deep route open immediately, throw it. It usually works. But if he’s covered, McDaniel needs to come up with better #2 options and make Tua practice those a thousand times.

  4. I’m a bit more of an optimist not saying Wash will be easy as no road game is but they should win it with some breathing room unless ridiculous things happen. They should be able to run and pass and have some players coming back healthy. I thought the jesters would have been more trouble and they weren’t.

    Tua has went to 2nd and 3rd reads when time enables him to do so. Remember the oline has been banged up. Doing well but part of that is the quick releases. That’s by design not because Tua has 2 minutes to throw it. If that oline gets healthy and better then I’m sure we’ll see some of the plays you guys are talking about. Right now it’s either there or get rid of it. I remember brady grounding it a lot but that was on purpose when Tua does it its a bad ball.

  5. and behold!

    The Dolphins have the top seed in the AFC, without beating any team with a winning record

  6. and let’s not forget…..four of their last five games are home games!

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