The Miami Dolphins (8-8) host the New York Jets (7-9) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, and the Dolphins need a victory plus a New England loss at Buffalo to earn their first playoff berth since 2016. Here are five things to watch for in Sunday’s game:
It’s time to stop being disappointing and outscore an opponent in an important game. This offense ranks 10th in scoring at 24.1 points per game. There’s only one other season in the previous 10 that point total would have ranked in the top 10 (2017). The offense has been stuck in the mud since the bye week.
Even when it scored 30 points against Houston in a 30-15 victory, the offense only had two touchdowns (cornerback Xavien Howard had a touchdown on a fumble return) and didn’t score the entire second half. The offense has averaged just 20.8 points per game during this five-game losing streak. Coach Mike McDaniel, whose calling card is offense, must find a way to counter what defenses are doing.
Dolphins’ QB performance
Whether the starter is Teddy Bridgewater or Skylar Thompson, they shouldn’t have to win the game for the Dolphins. They only need to give Miami a chance to win in the fourth quarter. In fact, in three of the four games starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa missed time due to an injury (Cincinnati, New York Jets, Minnesota, New England) the reserve quarterbacks gave the Dolphins a chance to win.
The only game they didn’t have a chance to win in the fourth quarter? The 40-17 loss to the Jets. Whether Bridgewater or Thompson starts, the game should be won by players or units other than quarterback.
Coach Mike McDaniel
The pressure is on McDaniel, the rookie head coach. His team is contending for the worst collapse in franchise history, possibly surpassing the 1993 meltdown of going from 9-2 to 9-7 and missing the playoffs.
McDaniel must now find a way to claw out one more victory and hope New England loses at Buffalo to get the Dolphins into the playoffs. It won’t be easy. The Dolphins are battling injury concerns as well as a damaged psyche. Let’s see if McDaniel can work some magic.
Dolphins’ defense and special teams
A victory on Sunday will require good performances from the defense and special teams, and that’s not guaranteed. The defense, which has been up and down this season, has played well at home, allowing an average of 16 points per game. They’ll likely need to be around that average against the Jets (the offense averages 23.1 ppg at home).
As for special teams, kicker Jason Sanders must be able to hit a 50-yard field goal because, let’s face it, that could be a requirement for victory. Sanders is 1 for 5 on field goal attempts of 50 or more yards this season.
Dolphins’ best players
The Dolphins’ star players — wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, edge rusher Bradley Chubb, offensive tackle Terron Armstead, Howard, etc — need to find a way to either deliver this victory themselves or rally their teammates to deliver a win. This is a player’s league and players bear most of the responsibility for what happens to a team. So, the Dolphins’ top players must come through.
We can talk all we want about turnover margin (Dolphins are minus-7, tied for third-worst in the league), point differential (minus-7), and being without your starting quarterback. Bottom line: the Dolphins’ best players must deliver a victory despite their individual injury situations.