We’ve come to the final weekend of the regular season and for the Dolphins and the Bucs December has been a wild ride.
First, the Dolphins got hot heading into the month winning six straight games and making themselves relevant in the AFC Wildcard picture. Then, Baltimore humbled them, ended their win streak and at that point took away Miami’s ability to win out and control their own destiny.
But, alas, the Fins persevered, even after losing QB Ryan Tannehill to a knee sprain in the second half of Arizona game three weeks ago, won three more in a row, and now find themselves at 10-5 headed into the regular season finisher with the Patriots. And that record with tiebreakers has them locked into the Wildcard without having to do anything Sunday. Tremendous finish to the season.
So, now here are the two simple scenarios remaining for the Dolphins for this weekend:
One, Miami will be the #6 seed in the AFC and play the North champion Steelers in two weekends if they lose to the Patriots, or if Kansas City wins at the Chargers later in the day.
Two, the Dolphins will be the #5 seed and play the South Champion Texans in two weekends, if they win over the Pats and the Chiefs lose.
Again, Dolphins IN, and only playing/scoreboard watching for seeding in the AFC.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are not as fortunate in their scenarios and are likely out of the NFC Wildcard.
With the Bucs loss to the Saints last Saturday dropping them to 8-7, their playoff hopes are hanging like the hero in a movie by his fingernails over the cliff.
So here goes: to have any hope at winning a tiebreaker with Green Bay, the Bucs must win first Sunday in an early game with Carolina to get to 9-7.
Then, the Bucs must have a Green Bay loss in the Sunday night game at the Lions. Tampa Bay loses a headed to head tiebreaker to the Lions at 9-7. But before that game is played, they must also have a series of “cosmic-altering” events ALL happen to get into position for the tiebreaker over the Packers on what the NFL calls “strength of victories.”
That simply means that the Buccaneers opponents they have beaten must have a better record overall combined than the Pack’s victim’s wins.
That translates into: Bucs win, and then they need the Colts, Texans, Cowboys and 49ers to also win games throughout the day that mean nothing to them but pride. Good luck with that.
But finally, and most bizarrely, the fifth piece of help is a TIE in the Giants vs. Redskins late afternoon game.
You read that correct, they must have no winner and an overtime tie to eliminate the Redskins. This will hurt the Packers “strength of victory” just enough with the other wins above to get the Bucs the tiebreaker.
Obviously, you would be better off with a scenario that involves “kidnappings” “All night benders” and buses that never find the stadiums than what that is above. But, that’s the Buccaneers reality.
Again, their fate was in their hands last weekend. Had they won combined with the Cowboys beating the Lions Monday, the Bucs were in position to simply win Sunday vs. Carolina (at home) and then get the tiebreaker over the Packers-Lions loser for the final NFC Spot.
Didn’t happen and now, it’s likely “the plug will be pulled” by one of those things above not happening before Green Bay kicks off at Ford Field.
So, bottom line? Dolphins fans are rejoicing and Bucs fans are agonizing.
‘Tis the season, this time of year in the NFL.
Dolphins grabbing RB Frank Gore looking smarter and smarter
The Dolphins were right about Frank Gore.
And the risk they took in signing the 35 year-old as a free agent in March and making him a prominent part of their run game, paid off in their dramatic 31 – 28 win over the Chicago Bears in overtime Sunday.
Gore gouged the Bears for 101 yards on 15 carries and ran stronger and harder as the game wore into the extra session.
His 32 yard run help set up the potential winning touchdown, only to have fellow running back Kenyan Drake cough up the fumble at the goal line to keep the Bears alive.
Still, when Chicago missed their field goal and the Dolphins had new life, Gore was again out there pounding on the Bears defense, as Miami eventually lined up and kicked the game winning field goal with rookie Jason Sanders.
The Colts elected not to resign the the 14-year veteran this past March. And, Gore’s desire to come back home, where he grew up and starred for the Hurricanes made the marriage with the Fins a natural one.
Still, the Dolphins could have elected to go get another back in free agency, but did not. They did draft Arizona State Kalen Ballage in the fourth round and have hopes that he will mature into an every-down back.
For now, Gore is not only a mentor to Drake and sharing the load, but he actually delivered when the Dolphins were desperate and Drake’s confidence was shaken.
Gore was limping at the end of overtime after taking a shot on one of his runs late, and who knows how much more he can give Miami as this season wears on at 35 years of age?
However, you cannot disagree that the Dolphins took a calculated risk and it’s already paying off to have Frank Gore in their backfield.
As the saying goes, there’s no substitute for experience, and Miami’s backfield has it with #21.
Dolphins continue trend of winning wild home games
Say this for Dolphin fans buying tickets at Hard Rock Stadium: they have gotten their money’s worth and then some, on crazy plays and drama. Oh, and Sunday was no exception, as Miami needed every second of five periods to triumph 31-28.
By the time rookie kicker Jason Sanders (above) booted through his game winning field goal, as time expired in overtime, it had to feel more like Fins fans had been on a three hour roller coaster ride against the Bears Sunday.
After all, Miami controlled the first half and led Chicago 7-0 at the break. This after the Bears in their last game, two weeks ago against the Bucs, set a franchise reord with 38 first half points in a blowout win.
However, in the third quarter Chicago capitalized on backup QB Brock Osweiler’s interceptions and scored three touchdowns-all in less than two minutes off the clock each time.
You couldn’t blame fans for thinking “here we go again” as Miami was staring at a third straight bad loss.
Still, the Fins dealt with a circus 7 hour twice weather delayed game with the Titans that opened the season with a victory. Then two weeks later, beat the Raiders with plays that included a flipped “jet sweep” TD to speedy Jakeem Grant and eventually, a clinching score from Albert Wilson for a long catch and run TD.
Sunday was “Deja Vu” for Wilson and the big play: a replica catch and run by Wilson that tied the game late:
ALBERT WILSON AGAIN!
📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/dYSNqbdHs5
— NFL (@NFL) October 14, 2018
75 yards on the scamper by Wilson tied the game and set into motion a wild “bonus period” of football, too.
A period that had the dramatic low of Kenyan Drake fumbling on the one yard line going in for the game winning TD-only to have Chicago recover and move into winning field goal range.
Only, wouldn’t you know it, former Dolphins kicker Cody Parkey, who left for the Windy City and big bucks, misfired wide right for the win to give Miami life, again.
Drake redeemed himself, along with Osweiler, with a 15 yard catch and run of his own into Bears territory to set up Sanders winning boot. And once it went through, the third year back went to his knees and then face on the ground with tears in his eyes, relieved that Miami had won 31-28.
Kenyan Drake fumbled on the goal line, forcing overtime.
After his team rallied back to win, he couldn’t hold back the emotions. pic.twitter.com/IY1oMy723V
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 14, 2018
It hasn’t been pretty in all cases, but it also hasn’t been boring.
And Fins fans can’t complain about being 4-2 at this stage, when they won only six games all last year. Most of all, when Miami plays at home, big plays and wild endings have been the norm.
And if you stay until the end, you are rewarded.
Gameday- Suddenly struggling Dolphins host Bears
What: Dolphins (3-2) vs. Bears (3-1)
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens
Spread: Bears by 4 points (Courtesy Vegasinsider.com)
Can the Dolphins, who were once 3-0, stop their sudden slide of two awful road losses? Will the Bears, off their bye week, be ready to deal them another defeat? Here’s what we are watching:
Is there a psychological crisis in Miami?
The Dolphins responded off of their blowout loss in New England playing good football for two and a half quarters in Cincinnati last week. However, leading 17 – 0, Miami proceeded to melt down, including giving up too easy defensive scores deep in their own territory as part of a Bengals 27-17 win.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was under duress, had two of those giveaways get returned for the scores, and has to take better care of the ball in this match-up with the Bears.
And there is now doubt as to whether he can make the throws or complete the game:
And if Ryan Tannehill cannot start against Chicago due to a right shoulder injury, Brock Osweiler would start against the Bears…. https://t.co/sqP39xX2Eg
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 14, 2018
Osweiler has started 25 games previously in Houston and Denver (seven last year) over the last three seasons. It will also be interesting to see if David Fales or rookie Luke Falk will the be the active “third QB” today in this scenario.
Will Trubisky continue his roll?
When last we saw Chicago second-year quarterback, he was torching the Tampa Bay secondary for five first-half touchdown passes and six of them overall in a 45 – 10 victory
The Bears, have had the week off, have good weapons in the backfield in running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, but it’s trubisky play that will help them sustain some drives.
Trubisky has to stay away from turnovers, as well. The Dolphins secondary has more interceptions than any other unit in the NFL.
Get Khalil Mack blocked
It seems simple enough, yet through the first four games of the Season, no one has been able to get in front of the All-Pro pass-rusher acquired from the Raiders on the eve of the season.
Mack has five sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown in his first four games for Chicago. There was good news late in the week for the Dolphins when left tackle Laremy Tunsil cleared concussion protocol and will be able to block Mac some one-on-one when he lines up on right defensive end.
That will be a match-up to zero in on as the game unfolds.
The rest of the time? You might have to have two or three people try to engage Mack, but you’ve got to contain him or it will be a tough day for the offense.
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