Why the Miami Dolphins Have a Legitimate Shot at 9-7 or 8-8

Scott AltmanCorrespondent INovember 22, 2011

Why the Miami Dolphins Have a Legitimate Shot at 9-7 or 8-8

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    After stumbling out of the gate to an abhorrent 0-7 start, the Miami Dolphins have rattled off three straight victories—lamenting them as one of the NFL's hottest teams. 

    Despite their recent success, the Fins are still only 3-7 and their playoff chances remain astronomical. However, the postseason is still attainable. 

    If the Dolphins can continue their improbable winning streak over the next six weeks, they could finish the season 9-7, which would definitely put them in contention for a wild-card berth. 

    Miami's remaining slate of games provides the team with six challenging yet winnable matchups. Here's a breakdown of the Dolphins' final six games, and how they can emerge victorious in all of them. 

Week 12 @ Dallas Cowboys

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    The Cowboys have emerged as surprise contenders in the NFC. Tony Romo, Demarco Murray, Dez Bryant and Co. are scorching hot, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has managed to transform the Cowboys defense into a top 10 unit. 

    Moreover, Dallas is 4-1 at home. So how can the Fins topple the 'Boys on Thanksgiving Day?

    Well, history simply leans in Miami's favor. The Dolphins are 5-1 on Thanksgiving, and are 3-1 against the Cowboys on the holiday. 

    Plus, Dallas just endured a physical game against the Washington Redskins. The Cowboys battled into overtime while the Dolphins comfortably blew out the Bills

    Miami will likely be in better physical shape than Dallas come Thursday, and coupled with the Dolphins' historical success on Turkey Day, an upset could be in the making. 

Week 13 vs. Oakland Raiders

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    Speaking of surprise contenders, the Oakland Raiders currently look like the favorite to claim the AFC West crown. As Carson Palmer settles in, the Raiders offense looks increasingly potent. However, this team is still vulnerable. 

    Remember, Oakland lost by 14 to Tim Tebow and the Broncos three weeks ago, and narrowly defeated the Vikings by six points on Sunday. 

    The Raiders must trek across the country for this Week 13 matchup, which also works in Miami's favor. 

    So long as the Dolphins can expose Oakland's 24th-ranked defense and contain Carson Palmer, they could easily emerge victorious. 

Week 14 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Prior to the start of this season, Miami's Week 14 tilt with the Philadelphia Eagles looked like a sure-fire loss. Even the most optimistic fans couldn't expect the Dolphins to half Philly's lethal offense and "Dream Team" defense. 

    However, this now looks like a winnable game for the Fins. 

    Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin are struggling with injures, and the Eagles' offensive line is quite suspect. If Cam Wake and Jason Taylor can wreak havoc on Vick, then Philly will struggle. 

Week 15 @ Buffalo Bills

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    The Dolphins annihilated the Bills on Sunday, asserting their dominance over this AFC East foe. 

    Miami and Buffalo meet again in Week 15, but don't expect another blowout. The Fins haven't swept the Bills since 2008, and temperature will be frigid when they visit Ralph Wilson Stadium. 

    Still, the Dolphins won so convincingly on Sunday that they should have a physical, mental and emotional edge on the Bills. Plus, Buffalo's roster was decimated by injury on Sunday, and if they cannot get healthy by Week 15, then Miami should win easily. 

Week 16 @ New England Patriots

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    Miami's Week 16 matchup is easily the most daunting on their schedule, as they march up to New England to face Tom Brady and the Patriots.

    Temperatures should be well below freezing by game time, and Miami's defense will be asked to slow Tom Brady and his platoon of wide receivers and tight ends. 

    Even though the Pats figure to have a playoff spot secured at this juncture, Bill Belichick never benches his players, and his team will be playing at full speed. 

    Miami has won in New England only once since 2006, and unless Matt Moore can inflict serious damage on the Patriots' 32nd-ranked pass defense, it's difficult to envision a victory here.

    However, anything can happen during divisional matchups, especially when a season is on the line. The Patriots have been somewhat volatile this season, and if the Dolphins bring their best to New England during Week 16, they could steal a W.

Week 17 vs. New York Jets

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    New York's loss to Denver last Thursday lamented their status as one of the most overrated teams in the NFL. Mark Sanchez is mediocre at best, their rushing attack is slow and stagnant and Santonio Holmes is the only dangerous threat in the passing game. 

    Still, the Jets will give the Dolphins a tough test in a Week 17 game that could, however unlikely, have playoff implications for both teams. 

    Miami has never been swept by a Rex Ryan Jets team. And if the Fins actually manage to run the table over the next few weeks, they should have no problems defeating a New York team that hit rock bottom this past week.