After the New England Patriots finished off the Houston Texans Sunday night, clinching a playoff spot, NBC's Al Michaels explained the Patriots can also clinch their 12th AFC East title in 13 years Monday night, but only if the Miami Dolphins lose to the New York Giants.
"Not that the Dolphins have a chance" to win the division, Michaels said. But the math simply works out that another Miami loss hands the division to the Pats.
And that is the point here. The Dolphins do not have a chance to win the AFC East.
The Dolphins have only an outside mathematical chance to make the playoffs as a wild card, although miracles would need to be weaved in South Florida, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New York and perhaps other NFL home cities for that to happen.
The only legitimate chance the Dolphins have of reaching some semblance of respectability this season is winning maybe three of their final four games to salvage an 8-8 season.
And you know what that would get Miami?
A lower draft pick.
The fact of the matter is the Dolphins are currently out of the top 10 in the draft order. That order is currently:
- Sand Diego
- San Francisco
- New Orleans
So the Dolphins wouldn't be relevant enough to get in the playoffs. And they wouldn't be bad enough to get a high draft pick.
They would be where they have been so often the past decade or so --a mediocre team in a mediocre draft spot. Neither good enough to be celebrated nor bad enough to draft elite talent and make a quick climb to something much, much better down the road.
And the frustrating thing about all this?
The Dolphins might just play well enough the final month of this season -- perhaps starting tonight against the New York Giants in prime time -- to work themselves into that familiar mediocre spot.
The fact is all of the Dolphins remaining opponents have significant issues.
The Giants, for example, have the worst pass defense in the NFL.
The San Diego Chargers, losers in eight of the last nine games, have been ravaged by injuries.
The Indianapolis Colts are fighting to make the playoffs but there is zero assurance injured starting quarterback Andrew Luck will be back anytime soon.
The Patriots in the finale? Are they going to risk playing their starters in what will be a meaningless game?
In other words, the Dolphins actually might do some winning the next few weeks. They might be favored in at least two of those four games and a third -- New England -- might be off the board based on possible lineup decisions New England coach Bill Belichick makes.
No, not great.
Again, the only way this is even good is if the Dolphins win out and make the playoffs. But the chances of that happening are about as good as Joe Philbin's chances of landing another head coaching job in 2016. Not impossible. But not likely.
This is the curse of mediocrity, folks.
This is what happens when you are so bad, you get blown out twice by the Buffalo Bills. But you're good enough to travel to Washington and Philadelphia and win. This is what happens when you can blow out the Texans, but lose to the Jaguars.
I have a theory: I believe Dolphins fans would feel better about their team long term if this year's squad was worse. And I mean worse as in a four-win team.
That kind of 2015 season, you see, would assure a high draft pick next year. It would force management to revisit everything, and I do mean everything about this roster. That kind of season would perhaps lead to a housecleaning on every level. That kind of season would guarantee that a new head coach and new staff would be coming in.
Instead, what we might get is another 8-8 season. And that might cause owner Stephen Ross, whose decision-making is questionable at best, to think his team is only a couple of players away. He might want to overpay for another defensive tackle to improve the run defense. He might be inclined to believe this interim coach is the answer. The personnel department might continue to believe the offensive line is more or less good enough and the linebacker corps only needs a small tweak, and the corners on the roster are good enough.
In other words, left to their own devices, the folks running the Dolphins might once again fail to see the forest from the trees as they have failed to see them year after mediocre year for so many years in the past.
A collapse would prevent that kind of misread of this roster and organization.
Now, I am not advocating for the Dolphins to tank. That's dumb. I'm not advocating anything, actually. But I am presenting what may happen if the Dolphins rally.
A heroic rally these next four games might lead us to the same kind of crazy talk we heard at the end of 2005. Remember the end of 2005? The Dolphins, playing at the time what was a weighted last-place schedule after a disastrous 2004, rallied and won their final six games to finish the season 9-7. And everyone, including the head coach and the media and the personnel department and, well, everyone convinced themselves the Dolphins were on the cusp of something really good.
Everyone convinced themselves that if Miami could add one more player -- a good quarterback -- this franchise would be set.
Yes, the Drew Brees debacle happened the following offseason. But what also happened is the Dolphins were not nearly as good as everyone thought. Despite solid coaching from Nick Saban, the team fell to 6-10 in 2006.
That late 2005 rally lied to us all.
And so a rally late this season? Remember 2005.