Are the Miami Dolphins a playoff contender?

When I was a kid, I looked forward to three things: Christmas day, a Dusty Rhodes vs. Ric Flair match, and Dolphins vs. Jets. Unfortunately, being a lifelong Dolphins and Dusty Rhodes fan, it generally ended badly. Whether it was a soul crushing touchdown by Wesley Walls, Al Toon stealing a game late, or in-ring interference by Arn Anderson, my guys usually ended up on the short end of the stick.

However, this week is a little different for Dolphins fans. Several questions were left open going in to this Sunday. Is Jay Ajayi capable of setting an NFL record by having his third consecutive 200 yard game? This is a feat that has never been done. Is Miami’s defense the wreck that was 1-4 or the bend, but don’t break defense that has won 2 in a row? Can Ryan Tannehill lead this team into the playoffs for the first time?

The most important of these questions is “Are Miami Dolphins playoff contenders?”

With a victory on Sunday, Miami would be 4-4, which would put them in the hunt for a wildcard. Miami’s schedule is fairly soft with only New England being a surefire playoff contender.

However, Miami Dolphins fans have been here before. On the edge of believing their team was going to turn a corner, only to have the rug pulled out from under them. This wouldn’t be the first time the Jets strolled into Miami and shot a hole in their playoff scenario. Even with it only being Week 9, these things have a tendency to come back and haunt you.

So what would we find out? Well, we found out quickly that Ajayi was not going to have a third consecutive 200 yard game. The Jets watched game film and seemed hell bent on stopping Ajayi in the first half. Ajayi was held to only 24 yards in the first half. The one highlight for Ajayi in the first half was a 20-yard touchdown to give Miami a lead.

Unfortunately, Miami’s defense from the 1-4  start seemed to show up in the first half by giving up 77 yards and a touchdown to Jets running back, Matt Forte. Ryan Fitzpatrick, NY Jets’ much-maligned quarterback, seemed to move the ball at will on the Dolphins defense in the first half. Fitzpatrick is famous for multiple interception games; not exactly Tom Brady or Phillip Rivers.

However, the second half was a different scenario. Miami’s defense stiffened up, holding Forte to only 15 yards in the second half. Fitzpatrick went 17/28 for 193 yards and a touchdown. However, Miami’s defense was able to get Fitzpatrick to throw 2 interceptions. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips snatched one of Fitzpatrick’s balls from the air, leading to a Miami field goal. Brice McCain’s interception had an even greater impact, preventing a go-ahead score late in the game.

Unfortunately, Ryan Tannehill didn’t do much to help his team in the first or second half. Tannehill went 17/ 28 for 149 yards and a touchdown. However, Tannehill’s inability to convert third downs in key drives reared its ugly head again. This horror movie Miami Dolphins fans have seen before; crucial drives stalled by Tannehill’s inability to complete a simple pass.

This left a close game with Miami only up by four when Matt Darr, Miami’s punter, went back to punt and dropped the ball. This is the moment Miami Dolphins fans had been waiting to happen. A costly turnover leading to an easy Jets score and our season goes down the drain. Fitzpatrick promptly threw a touchdown pass to take the lead. Well, I guess that’s it. Then the Jets kicked the ball off to Miami’s third round pick from Alabama, Kenyon Drake. Drake is famous for a 95 yard run against Clemson in the championship game. He outdid himself by returning a 96 yard touchdown to take the lead. Drake’s speed was like a Dusty Rhodes bionic elbow – it changed things.

Miami’s defense took the hint and put heat on Fitzpatrick, with Ndamukong Suh spiking Fitzpatrick off the ground for drive-ending sack. Unfortunately, Tannehill’s inability to convert continued. However, after a defensive hold by the Jets that gave Miami a first down, Miami wisely put the game in the hands of Ajayi, who had a incredible second half. Ajayi rushed for over 111 yards on the day. 87 of those yards were in the second half. The most important being the last 20 yards that essentially ended the game. Miami 27 Jets 23.

 

Good News

Kenyon Drake

As I said earlier, usually when Miami goes down late, they stay down. Drake’s return was spectacular. This is the reason he was drafted; for his game changing speed.

Jay Ajayi

Ajayi seems to be a cornerstone for Miami’s offense. Thou he wasn’t able to make history, Ajayi kept Miami in the game. Ajayi looks like a player they can trust not a fad.

 

Bad News

Miami’s defense

Miami’s defense played well in spots, having two huge turnovers. However, too many penalties that led to Jets points. Their bend but don’t break defense breaks too much for me. Fitzpatrick moved the ball in spots too easy because of poor play by Miami’s cornerbacks. This could be a huge problem with a visit to San Diego next week.

Ryan Tannehill

The bane of my existence. Tannehill has got to start converting on third downs more consistently. Tannehill is killing drives for points or drives that would end games.

 

Final Thought

Well, is Miami a playoff contender? I hate to do this, but I don’t know. Tannehill is not showing enough consistency for me to trust him to win big games. Miami’s defense is still Jekyll and Hyde. Let me tell you, if Hyde shows up next week, Phillip Rivers will kill them. However, when tragedy struck, the Dolphins didn’t fold. Miami’s comeback was a good sign. We should have a clearer answer to that question next week against Phillip Rivers and the Chargers. However, with that said, 9-year-old me is just happy we stuck it to the Jets.

Wear it, Al Toon, Wesley Walker, and you too, Arn.