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Despite Scandal, Miami Season At A Crossroads

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These next 7 weeks will decide the fate of head coach Joe Philbin. Will he be wearing the headset of the Miami Dolphins in 2014?
These next 7 weeks will decide the fate of head coach Joe Philbin. Will he be wearing the headset of the Miami Dolphins in 2014?

Despite all the distractions and media scrutiny hanging over the Miami Dolphins the last two weeks, they still have a chance to play meaningful football in November and December. However, a loss tonight on primetime television to a winless Buccaneers team could be just enough to cripple their locker room and destroy their goal of a playoff berth.

Although, what seems like the talk of the nation, albeit for all the wrong reasons, the Dolphins still have a chance to unite as a team and rip off some victories these next few weeks. Getting a W in Tampa Bay will improve the Dolphins to 5-4 and vault them into the thick of the AFC race for the sixth and final playoff spot. After the Bucs, the Dolphins schedule looks like this:

Home vs. San Diego (4-5)

Home vs. Carolina (6-3)

Away vs. Jets (5-4)

Away vs. Steelers (3-6)

Home vs. Patriots (7-2)

Away vs. Bills (3-7)

Home vs. Jets (5-4)

Counting the Monday night affair in Tampa Bay, there are four home games and four away games left. If you want to talk strength of schedule, four of those games are against teams with less than a .500 record and four are against teams with winning records at this point.

The biggest mismatch for Miami looking ahead has to be Carolina. At a surprise 6-3, Carolina poses a top-three defense statistically and they rush the passer as good as any team out there. That will be a big issue with Miami’s thin offensive line.

However, momentum is a special thing in the National Football League. For example, the Redskins were 3-6 last season before reeling off seven straight and getting into the playoffs. Beating the Bucs and quieting the media could lead to bigger things for Miami. The next opponent, San Diego, is historically worse when they have to fly across the country into the Eastern Time zone and they will have to do that, fresh off a home division loss to the Denver Broncos.

Even with a loss to the upstart Panthers, the Dolphins have two winnable games after that in NY and in Pittsburgh, which is not the same Steelers team we’ve been accustomed to. The Patriots almost never lose at home and I’m sure the weather will be in their favor in December, so a loss there would put the Dolphins at 8-6 or at worse, 7-7, if they trip against the Jets or Steelers.

The Dolphins literally handed the Bills a win last month at home when they fumbled the ball away late in the fourth quarter, leading to a game-winning field goal by Dan Carpenter and a demoralizing home division loss. I would imagine if the Dolphins need the game in Week 16, their sense of urgency should be enough to carry them over the top, even in snowy Buffalo.

If all goes as planned, the Dolphins season would come down to Week 17, at home against the New York Jets. Rookie Geno Smith has struggled thus far away from home and it could be a winnable game with playoff implications.

All the scenarios I laid out are obviously optimistic, and would take some good fortune and good execution from the Miami Dolphins just to get to a possible Week 17 elimination game.  

If the Dolphins are to lose Monday night to the hapless and dysfunctional Buccaneers, all bets are off. I fear the worst for Miami’s season if they fail to leave Tampa without a win.

With every loss, the media will continue to hammer Dolphins players about the ongoing Incognito-Martin scandal that has taken the league by storm and players will begin to wear down. Rumors that head coach Joe Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland (good riddance) may not make it past this season will also be a question raised after a loss. All that pressure and scrutiny coupled with losing games, the Dolphins season could unravel rather quickly.

It is time to forget Miami was once 3-0.

It is time to forget they lost four straight after that.

It is time to forget the bullying scandal.

That is in the past and out of the player’s hands. It is safe to say, going into Week 10, the Miami Dolphins, as an organization, is at a crossroads and there are only two ways to go from here. Get angry, unite and reel off a few wins or put your tail between your legs and let what was once a promising season go to waste.