As promised, we will continue to monitor both the Buccaneers and the Dolphins chances of making the post-season and with three games to go, both are still very relevant in the playoff picture.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With the Bucs 16-11 win over the Saints Sunday, Tampa Bay maintains its spot at 8-5 as the outright sixth seed in the NFC Wildcard picture. Obviously, the Buccaneers need no other help. They win their remaining three games (tall order), and they are in the playoffs. Tampa Bay has the huge showdown Sunday night at the Cowboys.
As for being tied still with the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC South lead at 8-5 and the potential to host a playoff game as the division champ, here’s the latest: Both Tampa Bay and Atlanta are 3-1 in the South and that will be the first tiebreaker. Both teams finish week 16 and 17 alternating playing the Saints and the Panthers. Those games could decide the division and/or the tiebreaker.
Next tiebreaker will be best won/loss % in common games. This is currently advantage Falcons. They have a one game lead over the Bucs in common opponents and if both win out, Atlanta will get that tiebreaker. So, obviously Buc fans are rooting for at least one more Falcon loss to break the current tie. It also gets crazy with who loses to whom in the last three weeks. So, we won’t go there, yet.
The Bucs are a half game in front of the Redskins (7-5-1) who have two of their remaining games at home and a full game in front of the Packers and the Vikings (7-6). Washington does play the Giants, who currently occupy the five spot in the NFC, in the the final game of the season at D.C. And, Green Bay and Minnesota play at Lambeau in two weeks, and in both of those, someone has to take a loss.
So likely, the Bucs can still lose one of their final three and get in, but that becomes scarier.
As for the Dolphins
Their 26-23 win over the Cardinals Sunday puts them back in the picture for the AFC Wildcard spots. At 8-5 they are back tied with the Denver Broncos, who lost in Nashville for the sixth spot. They did not play this year, and so, Denver currently holds the tiebreaker with a better conference record. But the Broncos have the tougher finish playing the Patriots this week, at the Chiefs and finishing with Oakland at home. All of those teams are contending for not only the playoffs but division titles and home field advantage, etc. It is going to be tough for Broncos to win all of those and they may lose a couple.
The Dolphins finish with three games against the AFC East playing at the Jets this Saturday night, at Buffalo and then hosting the Patriots on New Year’s Day. While Miami is still alive mathematically for the East title, one more Pats win or Dolphins loss ends that. What’s more realistic is the Fins win their next two (albeit on the road) and put themselves in position for the Wildcard.
The good news for Miami is the Ravens lost Monday night and dropped a game back at 7-6. They and 7-6 Tennessee both have won head to head over the Dolphins and obviously, win a tiebreaker against them, if it comes to it.
So, again, the Dolphin best hope is win out and get a Denver loss. Or lose only once, get two losses from the Broncos and at least one more from each of Titans and Ravens.
We will continue to keep track of it all.
“Mountaineer Shot” earns Dolphins K Sanders AFC honors
One of the great trick plays, not just of this NFL season but in recent pro football memory, has earned the Dolphins kicker who caught a touchdown pass Sunday AFC weekly honors.
The league announced Wednesday that kicker Jason Sanders, who became the first place-kicker to catch a touchdown pass in 42 years, is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week:
Special Teams Players of the Week (Week 13):
— NFL (@NFL) December 4, 2019
Sanders also made his only field-goal attempt, as well as two extra points, earned the weekly honor for Miami’s 37 – 31 upset of the Eagles.
However, it is the play that is known as “Mountaineer Shot” that Sanders will forever be remembered for not just in Dolphin history, but NFL.
We wrote about the play on Monday, as head coach Brian Flores and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman implemented the direct snap to punter Matt Haack, while players were spread wide on either side of the formation.
Haack then, took the snap, rolled left and when the Eagles rushed at him, he flipped the ball to Sanders for the touchdown. The play is named for the center, Kilgore, because he played at Appalachian State, whose nickname is the Mountaineers. And, it’s something that Dolphins had been practicing regularly on and off for the past two months.
Furher, as for the historical aspects of the play, Sanders became the first kicker to catch a touchdown pass in an NFL game since Baltimore’s Jim Turner did it in a game in 1977.
It is also the first time since the AFL – NFL merger in 1970 that a punter has completed a touchdown pass to a kicker and the play will live on for years and years to come.
It is the second time that Sanders has won the AFC special teams player of the week award this season. He also got the honor for his two clultch 48 yard field goals in the fourth quarter of the Dolphins 16-12 upset of the Indianapolis Colts in November.
Dolphins fans still buzzing over “Mountaineer Shot” trick play
Move over, “Miami Miracle,” we now have a rival Dolphins trick play that will be talked about forever by fans and observers.
While it wasn’t the crazy lateral clinching play that Miami scored on with no time left to defeat the Patriots last December, “Mountaineer Shot,” as it’s known, is one of the wildest gadget plays to ever score a TD in the NFL. That’s because it involved the punter throwing to the kicker for a touchdown on a fake field goal.
It was the second quarter with the Dolphins trailing the Eagles 13 – 7, when Miami elected to kick a field goal (or so we thought) from Philadelphia’s 1-yard line.
That’s when dolphin punter Matt Haack lined up behind Center Daniel Kilgore with Miami spreading players to the right and the left. Then, what happened next was comical special teams touchdown, maybe in NFL history:
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 1, 2019
Haack’s first ever NFL completion was a forward option pitch to the kicker, Jason Sanders. And for good measure, it was Sanders first reception in his entire football career (dating back to high school) with the play stunning the Eagles and helping Miami pull off a 37 – 31 upset win.
Here was more on the play from David Wilson of the Miami Herald, including how long coach Brian Flores, special teams coach Danny Crossman and the players had been waiting to pull it out of the bag of tricks:
“We felt like that was a good time to run it,” coach Brian Flores said, and it gave us a spark….
“It was one of those plays Miami had been waiting weeks for the chance to run. Tight end Mike Gesicki said the Dolphins started working on it about two months ago and have been waiting weeks for the right opportunity to arise. Sunday finally presented such an opportunity….
“The gutsy call was just the latest in a line of gutsy calls by special teams coordinator Danny Crossman. In an October loss to the Buffalo Bills, Haack ran for a first down on a fake punt attempt. Last month, the Dolphins successfully executed a surprise onside kick in another loss to the Bills….
“The gutsy call was Crossman distilled to his mad-scientist essence.
“Danny Crossman is crazy. Like what is he dreaming up? This is the NFL,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “Like, that’s not—that doesn’t happen.”
Of course there is further irony that the Eagles famously ran their “Philly Special” play, which was an option pass to then-quarterback Nick Foles, for a touchdown in their upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl 52.
So, teams have constantly been looking to get the Eagles on trick plays themselves.
This would include the Patriots having run a double pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman, who threw a touchdown against them in New England’s 17-10 victory couple of weeks ago at Philly.
Back to “Mountaineer Shot” on Sunday. The play is named for the center, Kilgore, because he played at Appalachian State, whose nickname is the Mountaineers.
And as for the historical aspects of the play, Sanders became the first kicker to catch a touchdown pass in an NFL game since Baltimore’s Jim Turner did it in a game in 1977.
And, it is the first time since the AFL – NFL merger in 1970 that our punter has thrown a touchdown pass to the kicker.
Oh, and the Fins have suddenly come to life with three wins in four games after and 0-7 start. And, it’s in part because the team is still playing hard for a coach and coaching staff that’s willing to take wild risks they did with “Mountaineer Shot,” Sunday.
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