Miami Dolphins: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 17

Thomas GaliciaFeatured Columnist IVDecember 24, 2013

Miami Dolphins: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 17

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Despite a devastating shutout loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins still find themselves with a very good shot at the postseason. 

    At 8-7, the Dolphins have already assured themselves of a non-losing season (their first since 2008), and with a win against the New York Jets, they will clinch a winning season for the first time since 2008. 

    Oh, and a playoff berth might come their way as well as long as a few other games go their way. 

    By Week 17, one would assume that we know all we need to know about the 2013 Miami Dolphins, but despite that, there's a lot more to see than what meets the eye. 

    Here's a look at five things to know about the Dolphins heading into the final week of the regular season. 

Ryan Tannehill Still Has a Chance at the 4,000 Yard Club

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    After a Mark Sanchez-esque effort against the Buffalo Bills that included only 10 completions for 82 yards, it might be hard to believe that Ryan Tannehill can reach a number that only the elite quarterbacks usually get to. 

    But it's true, as Ryan Tannehill is only 291 yards away from reaching the 4,000 yards club. 

    The last Dolphin to do this: Dan Marino back in 1994. 

    How is this possible when he puts up such stinkers as the one he laid on Sunday against the Bills? Look at his previous 14 games where he averaged 259 yards per game. The Buffalo debacle dropped his average to 247.3 yards per game. 

    In his last encounter against the New York Jets, Tannehill threw for 331 yards. Keep in mind that this was in less optimal conditions than he will experience at home on Sunday. 

    If he can replicate that performance, he will not only eclipse 4,000 yards, but will also lead the Dolphins to a victory. 

Dolphins Might Get Two Wide Receivers into the 1,000-Yard Club

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    Tannehill's quest for 4,000 isn't the only statistical achievement that can be met on Sunday, but it does tie into this one. 

    Not many teams get one receiver to pick up 1,000 receiving yards, let alone two. 

    But the Dolphins can do just that on Sunday as their top two receivers have a shot at getting into four figures. 

    Brian Hartline is currently Miami's receiving leader with 978 yards, meaning he likely is only a catch or two away from crossing the 1,000-yard plane. In fact, had it not been for a couple of big drops against the Bills, he would've already reached this plateau. 

    Mike Wallace also has a shot at 1,000, but it will be a bit more difficult for him as he will need 95 yards to get to that point. 

    Can both players do this? Definitely, and if Tannehill can throw for enough to reach 4,000, odds are Hartline and Wallace will catch enough to get to 1,000. 

The Dolphins Enjoy Takeaways

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    For years, Dolphins fans have been clamoring for a much more aggressive defense in terms of big plays and takeaways. 

    In that aspect, the 2013 Miami Dolphins haven't disappointed one bit, as they currently are ranked sixth in the AFC in takeaways with 24. 

    Miami isn't just averaging more than one takeaway per game, but they actually have recorded a takeaway in each game this season. 

    This impressive streak doesn't look like one that might end in Week 17 as they face Geno Smith and the Jets. The Jets are second in the AFC in giveaways with 29 and have a -17 differential.

    It's a shame that the Dolphins offense has had their problems with turnovers at times this season, as despite those issues, Miami's turnover differential is still at +1.  

Dolphins' Recent Success Against the New York Jets

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    Sunday might be Rex Ryan's final game with the Jets, and it would only be fitting if he was sent off with a Dolphins victory. 

    Since Ryan took over the Jets in 2009, the Dolphins hold a 6-3 advantage over the Jets. They not only swept the Jets in 2009, but they can sweep them this season as well thanks to their 23-3 victory back on December 1. 

    Now for the downside: The Jets have won two out of the four games between the two teams played at Sun Life Stadium. 

    Either way for many Dolphins fans, this mastery over the Jets is one to celebrate. In Miami's six victories during the Ryan era, the Dolphins have outscored the Jets by an average of nine points per game. In their last two meetings, that average has been much higher, as they've outscored the Jets by 20.5 points per game. 

    Nothing is automatic in the NFL, and the Jets will fight hard on Sunday as it will be sweet for them and their fans to keep Miami out of the playoffs (much like Miami did to them in 2011), but based off of recent history, one would think that the Dolphins have a great shot at getting victory No. 9 and sending Ryan packing (and hopefully if Ryan gets fired, the Dolphins quickly hire him as their defensive coordinator for 2014). 

Miami's Playoff Scenarios

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    After such a demoralizing loss filled with stupidity from the players and coaches, one might find it hard to be positive about the Dolphins. 

    I attempted to do that in this piece, but even I can't be as positive as the playoff picture, which still slightly favors the Dolphins. 

    Miami will need help, but so does everyone else in the race as described in this piece by Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated

    As simple as this can be, if both the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers emerge victorious on Sunday afternoon, the Miami Dolphins will be headed to the playoffs. 

    According to Yahoo Sports, San Diego is favored by 10 at home in their matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, as the Chiefs have already clinched the fifth seed in the AFC East, and the Chargers already defeated the Chiefs back in November by the score of 41-38 in Kansas City. 

    This doesn't guarantee anything, but it should tell you that the Dolphins have a very good shot at the playoffs. 

    What would also help is a loss by the Baltimore Ravens against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Cincinnati will be playing for the second seed in the AFC, so expect a full game plan from them at home against a division rival that they have had trouble against in the past. 

    But all of this becomes a moot point if the Dolphins lose. If that were to happen, they would not only lose out on a playoff spot, but would fall behind the Jets and into third place in the AFC East thanks to the Jets holding a divisional tiebreaker over the Dolphins. 

    As long as Miami wins, everything is in their favor to make the playoffs, the same situation they were in last week. 

    Let's hope that they don't put up the same performance. 

    Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com.