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.