Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
The Miami Dolphins are 7-7 and still have a chance for a winning season if they can beat both the 6-8 Minnesota Vikings and the New York Jets, who are now a mere 3-11.
The Dolphins haven't had a winning record since 2008, their last playoff appearance, when they finished 11-5.
Of course the players would rather have a winning record than a losing record. But players don't really care about having a winning record if they don't go to the playoffs.
"Winning two games means something," defensive tackle Jared Odrick said. "Finishing 9-7, if we get to the playoffs, will mean something. Finishing 9-7 and not going to the playoffs doesn't mean a thing.
"The thing is that winning two games means something. We take this one game at a time, so beating Minnesota means something, beating New York means something. But finishing 9-7 and not getting to the playoffs really doesn't mean much."
The Dolphins will probably be viewed as the favorites in both games, largely because they're home games against teams of equal or lesser talent. So, in theory, they should win both games.
But quarterback Ryan Tannehill, whose team has finished 7-9 and 8-8 in the previous two seasons, doesn't seem concerned with whether a winning record will mean the Dolphins have made progress.
"I don't play for progress," he said. "I play to win."
Coach Joe Philbin is 14-8 in his two-plus seasons against teams that finished worse than .500 the previous two seasons or are worse than .500 this season.
The problem is Philbin is 8-16 against teams that finished better than .500 or are are better than .500 right now.
It's not known whether a winning season would or could save Philbin's job.
The Dolphins haven't had much going right for them in December. They're 1-2. The run defense has been trampled. The offense has only scored three touchdowns in three games. And special teams had a blocked field goal returned for a 62-yard touchdown last week against the Patriots.
It's almost been a total system failure in the past three weeks. Even in the 16-13 victory over the Jets, Miami allowed 277 yards rushing.
Still, players are trying to maintain their competitive edge.
"I don't feel deflated," Odrick said. "I feel like there is still something to play for. Like I said, we're on a team that's .500, and if you don't believe that you're .500, you have to go out there and prove it.
"We've got two more games to do that, to put it on film, for our fans and to the NFL, who we are and what we're about, and that we don't believe that we're a .500 team. We've got two games to prove that, and that's what we're going to do in these last two games."
SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Dolphins leads series, 6-4. The Dolphins won the last meeting, 14-10, in 2010. In that game Vikings quarterback Brett Favre threw three interceptions and the Dolphins stopped Minnesota on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the game. The most well-known meeting between these teams was Super Bowl VIII when Miami won, 24-7. Running back Larry Csonka was named MVP after rushing for 145 yards.