The Miami Dolphins started their 2013 season 3-0 before losing their last two.
Despite having one of the worst running games in the league, a hurt defensive core and the worst pass protection in the league, the Dolphins still have a chance at making the playoffs this year—ending a five-year dry spell from postseason play.
Because of the aforementioned reasons, some do not give them a chance.
However, these issues could be looked at in a positive light.
Giving up the league's most sacks and running for the league's fourth-worst total rushing yards is not a commendable pair of team stats. But, it's not like it could get much worse.
Entering the season, the Dolphins made a lot of personnel upgrades, but their offensive line is still a major hole in their team, although that may not be something the front office could have done anything about due to lack of availability at the position.
There is no question that this offensive line has struggled of late. Tannehill often has just 2.3 seconds to throw on average. But I do not think it keeps them out of the playoffs.
Is Mike Wallace the key ingredient?
Partially. Wallace definitely stretches the opposing defenses in ways the Dolphins haven's seen since the likes of Chris Chambers...and that comparison is a stretch in-and-of-itself. I think Wallace has much better speed and is a more dangerous deep threat.
But he is not the main reason why the Dolphins will make the playoffs.
Is it Ryan Tannehill?
Again, sort of. Tannehill's ability to complete passes and put together drives has been impressive.
The Dolphins are ecstatic to have a quarterback that looks like he may last more than three years under center. His 85.5 passer rating indicates that he can run an offense with at least some level of proficiency. However, his 6/5 TD/INT ratio is not going to single-handedly lead to a playoff berth.
The single-most important factor to the Dolphins chances at the playoffs this year is their schedule.
Let's be safe and assume that the New England Patriots take the AFC East (as they are likely to). That leaves the Wild Card as Miami's last hope.
Let's be safe again and assume that the Dolphins will need 10 wins to take the AFC Wild Card (that's what Omar Kelly from The Sun Sentinel thinks will get them in). That would mean a 7-4 rest of the season. This is especially interesting because nine of their remaining 11 games are against AFC opponents, including two each against teams in their division.
Let's be safe one last time and assume the following are the season results:
Oct. 20, 1 p.m. ET vs. Buffalo Bills (2-3). Enter new Bills' quarterback Thad Lewis, a fourth-year pro with his fourth team and just 99 passes thrown to show for it. Also, C.J. Spiller's ankle is still an issue. WIN
Oct. 27, 1 p.m. ET at New England Patriots (4-1). Tom Brady...that is all. LOSS
Oct. 31, 8:25 p.m. ET vs. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2). Bit of a toss-up here. Both teams are 3-2, both have legitimate receiving threats and both have good, young quarterbacks (who both just so happen to have played college football in Texas). Cincinnati may have the edge on the defensive side of the ball. WIN/LOSS
Nov. 11, 1 p.m. ET at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4). They are 0-4 for a reason. WIN
Nov. 17, 1 p.m. ET vs. San Diego Chargers (2-3). Another one I am iffy about. The Philip Rivers-led Charger offense has accumulated the sixth-most yards this season. Their defense, however, has given up the sixth-most. Could go either way. WIN/LOSS
Nov. 24, 1 p.m. ET vs. Carolina Panthers (1-3). The Panthers' defense has given up the fewest number of yards so far on the year. But, the only team they've beaten this year is the New York Giants...WIN
Dec. 1, 1 p.m. ET at New York Jets (3-2). There's no denying the Jets have a great defense, but there is also good evidence to show their offense may be as bad as their defense is good. WIN
Dec. 8, 1 p.m. ET at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4). I'll give the Steelers the benefit of the doubt on their first four games and say they are in some sort of funk. Saying that, 0-4 is pretty bad...consistently bad. However, it will be December at Heinz and a nightmare for a team from Florida. Interesting to see which way it goes. WIN/LOSS
Dec. 15, 1 p.m. ET vs. New England Patriots (4-1). Same as before...LOSS
Dec. 22, 1 p.m. ET at Buffalo Bills (2-3). Maybe E.J. Manuel and Spiller are both back at quarterback by this time in the season, but I still don't think their defense can stop the Dolphins' offense enough. WIN
Dec. 29, 1 p.m. ET vs. New York Jets (3-2). The offense won't get any better. Can't win if you don't score any points. WIN
If my math is correct, my predictions give the Dolphins six wins, two losses and three toss-ups for their last 11 games. If just one of those toss-ups goes in Miami's favor, you are looking at a playoff team.
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