No. One: Miami Dolphins En Route To Another AFC East Championship?
I might be crazy, and living in some deluded world called Dolfan Land, but I ask the impossible anyways: Can the Phins steal the AFC East again?
Well, it's probably too early to tell exactly which Dolphin team will show up on any given Sunday (or Thursday for this coming week's game), but on paper the Miami Dolphins do have a legitimate chance of repeating as AFC East Champions. In fact with four strong teams ahead of them for the Wild Card berths, this might be the only legitimate way Sparano & Co. could bring the Phins back to the playoffs.
Currently, the Patriots are the only team that Miami has to pass en route to the top of the AFC East. Remember, they were in the cellar earlier in the year -- so it would be a tremendous accomplishment. But the Patriots, for all their Super Bowl rings, are sporting a sub-par contender's 6-3 record, and perhaps coming off one of the most embarrassing losses in recent history at the hands of Peyton Manning's Colts. To complicate matters, New England will be showcased on an upcoming Monday night meeting in the Superdome against the undefeated Saints. All this means is, they could be heading to Miami the following week with something at stake: the division lead.
Should the Dolphins beat both Carolina and Buffalo on the road, and the Patriots lose one of their next two games -- Jets and Saints -- then the Dolphins may just be a minuscule one game behind the Patriots in a crucial divisional showdown at Land Shark Stadium on Dec. 6. Moreover, should the Phins prevail, they would have the tiebreaker with a better division record (assuming they would end up 5-1 in the division, with the Pats having at least two losses).
The interesting thing about the two teams coming down the second half of the season is how intertwined their schedules are.
Over the next seven weeks, the Dolphins will play: at Carolina, at Buffalo, New England, at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, Houston and finish up the regular season versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Out of the seven games left on the Patriots schedule -- and counting the Dolphins -- they will play five of the same teams, as their road to the second season entails a home game against the Jets, at New Orleans, at Miami, Carolina, at Buffalo, Jacksonville, and a season finale at Houston.
As of now, the Dolphins combined opponents' record is 32-31, while the Patriots combined opponents' record is 34-29; although, take out the 9-0 Saints and their facing teams with a combined 25-29 record. It's not a matter of who will trip up the Patriots -- they clearly are in the driver's seat at this point. But with an upcoming head-to-head game, you must admit the two-game difference between 6-3 and 4-5 is marginal. In order for the Dolphins to win the division, they must play their hearts out, play mistake-free football, and have the mindset that it's up to them. Because it really is.
Then again, they could finish up with a losing record, too. Either the way the future looks as bright as their alternate jerseys.
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