The Dolphins are officially in "Why not us?" mode for the third consecutive year.
What is "Why not us?" mode you ask?
It is defined by not being consistent enough early in the season to have a clear and certain path to the playoffs late in the year. The team asking the question finds itself teetering on success or disaster late in the season. It is defined as being bad enough to be in dire straits, but still good enough to perhaps pull off the improbable and sneak into the postseason.
And that is exactly where the Dolphins see themselves today on the eve of Sunday's possible season-defining meeting against the New York Jets. The Dolphins are 6-6 and longshots to make the playoffs, but coach Tony Sparano is selling his team on the idea that a longshot sometimes sneaks into the playoffs in the NFL.
So, why wouldn't it be the Dolphins?
“This is an important game," Sparano said Friday. "My message to the team is that, the team that we’re playing was 6-6 last year at this time and ended up losing in the AFC Championship game, so … ran off a bunch of wins at the end of the year. We’re still in the hunt, somebody from that group that is in the hunt right now can possibly do that. So, why not us.”
OK, if you are a fan that only wants to read the happy news, please stop reading now and go to the comment section to agree the Dolphins have a solid chance to get in the playoffs. It's all good, see you during the live blog Sunday.
If, however, you want the truth, stick around. Here goes:
Why not the 2010 Dolphins?
Well, for one thing the comparison to the 2009 Jets is ridiculous on so many levels I cannot believe Sparano went there.
First, the Jets had one of the NFL's best running game last season. They were No. 1. Their defense was also dominant. They were No. 1 in the NFL in total yards (not important) and points allowed (very important). And New York still required had to profit from the fact both Cincinnati and Indianapolis basically laid down -- playing reserves for a majority of their games versus New York -- for the Jets to back into the playoffs.
The Dolphins have neither the running game at this point nor the defense to carry them into the postseason. And, the chance a couple of teams will lay down for them at the end of the year is not great. The Patriots might, might do it if they've already clinched home field advantage before the regular-season finale, but there is no assurance of that.
Barring that, Miami must travel to Foxboro where New England is undefeated this year and just administered a 45-3 whipping of New York. So the comparison between the 2010 Dolphins and 2009 Jets is just not logical.
I will tell you that "Why not us" mode worked for Miami in 2008. The Dolphins struggled mightily early in the season before finding their identity and rolling to the AFC East title. But, again, that team enjoyed a different and much more favorable situation for turning "Why not us" into "It is us!" than today's Miami team.
The Dolphins had an easier schedule in 2008. Their running game was superior than it is now. Their quarterback, Chad Pennington, didn't make mistakes and ultimately was in the conversation for league MVP. The Patriots didn't have Tom Brady, who was out for the season with a knee injury. The Dolphins were healthy almost top to bottom. And the Jets collapsed.
It was a wonderful sum of all the right circumstances that led Miami to the playoffs.
This year, the Dolphins are not a healthy team. Just Friday, the club announced both right tackle Vernon Carey and wide receiver Brian Hartline are out for Sunday's game.
So the Dolphins might once again be asking everyone "Why not us."
Unfortunately for them, this year there are myriad reasons why not.