The Jets failed against the New England Patriots last week. The Bills failed against the Patriots before that. Two division rivals that had their way with the Miami Dolphins met their match against the defending Super Bowl champions.
So what makes you think the Dolphins will do the improbable?
Oh, yeah, sports.
It isn't played within the reaches of what is likely. Indeed, it is what is improbable and unlikely happening time and again that makes sports so great. And that's why the Dolphins think something big is about to happen.
"We're going to shock the world, man, you watch," one Dolphins player told me in confidence on Monday.
More on why the Dolphins are apparently very confident about tonight in a moment. But first this bit of reality:
Even if the Dolphins do not win at New England tonight -- and remember the Patriots have the best home winning percentage of any team in the four major American sports since 2009 -- that does not end the ride back from Joe Philbin.
The two weeks that follow will decide if that rides ends or not.
The Dolphins, you see, tonight begin a three-game road stretch. After the Pats, they travel to Buffalo November 8 and Philadelphia November 15.
And these three road games are everything.
Out of these three roadies, the Dolphins must -- must -- emerge 2-1 to have any chance of vying for a wildcard spot at the end of the season. And even at 2-1, it is preferable those two wins come against the division and conference rival Patriots and Bills.
And this: If the Dolphins lose to the Patriots and Bills the next two weeks, the season is over for most intents and purposes. They would be 3-5 with four losses within the division against no wins. Teams that cannot win games within their division the first three months of the season don't matter in December playoff talk -- particularly when the conversation turns to tiebreakers.
So these next three games is it.
They will decide whether Miami is a contender.
They will decide something else: Dan Campbell's fate.
It has generally been understood the Dolphins were giving Campbell 12 weeks to make a bid to become more than the Dolphins interim coach. But actually, a source has told me, the time period during which the Dolphins were going to give Campbell exclusive thought was 4-6 weeks.
And as Campbell is two weeks into that time period already, the man is getting four weeks or games, including tonight, to prove he's worth hiring for the full gig while the Dolphins do not look around or consider anyone else.
And how does Campbell keep Miami's full attention and keep the brass from starting to look around? Well, he's got to beat division opponents for starters.
Campbell goes 2-0 against New England and Buffalo the next two weeks, he suddenly becomes the favorite to land the Dolphins fulltime job. He can argue he took over a team that was 1-3 and 0-2 within the division and in a matter of one month had them at 5-3 and back to .500 within the division with a road victory over the undefeated defending Super Bowl champions among the wins.
How's that for lines on a resume?
So against that backdrop the Dolphins start putting out feelers, contacting agents, to feel out future coaching possibilities?
Nope, against the backdrop the Dolphins, who fired Philbin in part to get a jump on hiring the next coach, will do absolutely nothing. Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum will not make a move on the hiring front -- regardless of how many times CBS.com reports he's reaching out to agents -- for fear of upsetting the chemistry or vibe of what is happening.
Remember, Tannenbaum is a former coach agent. He knows he calls any coach agent, it is in that agent's best interest to get the information out there. So he's not going to do that if the Dolphins are rolling.
On the other hand, Campbell goes 0-2 the next two weeks, getting basically the same results within the division that past failed Miami coaches got, and the Dolphins will indeed start to do their due diligence on conducting a thorough search for other candidates. In that scenario Campbell would get no favoritism based on his results.
So basically what this game tonight, and the two that follow will determine is with whether the Dolphins matter in December. What they mean to Campbell is mattering as the future head coach.
Now let me circle back and tell you why the Dolphins feel confident about tonight as explained to me:
1. They've played well against the Patriots in the past. They beat New England in the opener last year and were down only 14-13 at halftime in New England last December before they imploded in the third quarter.
2. They believe they match up well. The Dolphins think their defensive line will win the matchup against the New England offensive line tonight. They also believe there is success to be had running the ball on the Patriots.
3. The team's confidence, outside of anything that has happened against the Patriots in the past or what film suggests to coaches, is really high. It is hard to quantify that. The Dolphins have been a confident team in the past. The 2008 team was very confident after the first month of the season. The 2013 team was confident going into a Monday night meeting with New Orleans with a 3-0 record. This team confident also.