Can the Miami Dolphins, after their embarrassing home loss to the feeble Dallas Cowboys still make the playoffs?
The mediocre layer of the AFC combined with a bevy of home games down the stretch, offers an opportunity for their first post-season appearance since 2008.
The Dolphins need a couple of things to take place if they are to be successful: better linebacker play, a reversal in a weak run defense and fewer penalties at key times.
Yellow flags, which come standard with every kick and punt in the NFL these days, continue to plague Miami. Their average of 8.3 penalties per game ranks third-worst in the league. Don Shula must cringe in the owner’s box as yellow laundry continues to litter the playing surface.
By contrast, the Jets commit the third fewest penalties per game at 5.9. The difference basically means the Dolphins commit a half-game’s worth of penalties compared to the Jets. Over the course of a season, that can add up to several game’s worth of penalties.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to flop on third downs and in the red zone.
The Dolphins rank 31 of 32 on third down, converting just 27.8 percent into a fresh set of downs. When it comes to scoring red zone touchdowns, Miami sits at 16th with a 55.55 percent conversion rate. The Jets lead the NFL at 71.8% and New England ranks 6th at 64.44%.
If the Dolphins have any notions of becoming a legitimate AFC power, they must first measure themselves against the Patriots and other AFC East rivals. The path to AFC supremacy goes through New England.
But really, suppose the Dolphins make an amazing reversal of form and finish 10-6 or 9-7 and make the playoffs. What will happen? They win a round? Lose on the road in the first round? And then what? None of those scenarios indicate a complete organizational reversal of fortune on the scale that make real, sustainable change for the club.
The Dolphins need either overwhelming success, which would validate Stephen Ross’ complicated front office structure or catastrophic failure, forcing Ross to realize that the formula he’s applied to the business since assuming control six years ago doesn’t work.