MIAMI – This season was over, do you remember?
The Miami Dolphins were 1-7, and no NFL team made the playoffs after playing six games under .500 at any point in a season. They weren’t as close to fighting for an AFC East title as their 10-6 record last season suggested, and they would make drastic changes on both sides of the ball (and maybe even on the sidelines and in the front) Office) need.
But that was all before the streak. The Dolphins got hot just in time to keep their playoff hopes alive, winning six in a row – including Sunday’s 31-24 decision against the New York Jets – to break their record at 7-7 with three games remaining increase in the regular season. According to ESPN Stats & Information Research, they are only the second team in NFL history to win six straight games and lose seven straight games in the same season.
If they finish on a winning record, the Dolphins will be the first team in NFL history to do so after starting at 1-7; and with a little help you can be the first such team to reach the playoffs.
“We’re just trying to take it one day at a time. Get better,” said coach Brian Flores. “It’s the approach we’ve taken all season. These guys play hard for each other. They work hard. … They support each other. It’s a great group to train.”
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It was an incredible turnaround for arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL in the first half of the season.
The Dolphins were 30th in yards per game in the first half, and they’re a slightly better 20th on their winning streak. But it’s what they did on the other side of the ball that sparked their playoff aspirations.
What was once the league’s worst defense in terms of yards allowed per game now ranks second in that category for the past seven weeks. Miami’s minus 57.41 Defensive Expected Points Added (EPA) ranked the sixth worst in the league for the first eight weeks of the season; its defensive EPA of 56.53 since week 9 is second only to New England’s 69.3.
The Dolphins made that U-turn because they didn’t want to believe what the rest of the football world had accepted after eight weeks: that their season was over.
“I’m just around the boys,” said quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. “I really think it’s just communication, only the guys are in the building when we have days off. Guys who want to work stay extra. I think all of these factors play a role in our success on the field. “
Miami’s mission to reach its first playoff spot since 2016 is simple: win.
Lose on the way to either the New Orleans Saints next Monday (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) or the Tennessee Titans on January 2nd or at home to the New England Patriots on January 9th and Miami can look forward to this off-season because of the odds to reach the playoffs will decline.
The simplest scenario for the Dolphins is to win while the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, and Indianapolis Colts win their respective divisions.
None of that matters if Miami falls flat against the Saints, as it did when they won on Sunday when they were 10-0 behind the Jets in the first half.
The Dolphins’ most pressing concern this week is to get star rookies Jaylen Waddle (wide receiver) and Jevon Holland (safety) off the reserve / COVID-19 list.
“We’ll enjoy that win tonight. It’s been a tough day today but our approach is the same,” said Flores. “Let’s prepare the right way. Let’s go through our process, our weekly process. There are many changes that are happening right now. “