By this time, you already know what the scenarios are for the Miami Dolphins to make the 2020 NFL Postseason, A Dolphins win or a loss by either Indianapolis, Cleveland, or Baltimore. Though those scenarios favor the Dolphins, it does not seem likely on paper that either of these teams should lose on Sunday. However, this is why we play the games, any given Sunday.
Nobody thought the New York Jets would beat the 9-win Los Angeles Rams back in Week 15 on the road and then follow it up by beating the Cleveland Browns(though the Cleveland Wide Receiver room was mostly out due to COVID). Let’s go back to last season; the 4-11 Miami Dolphins were going into Foxborough, Massachusetts, against the New England Patriots, with the Patriots having a chance to clinch the number 2 seed and a first-round bye. After losing 43-0 in Week 2 in 2019 against New England at home, Miami made sure not to repeat that. A game where on paper, Miami should not have won, they knocked off their division rivals, finished 5-11, and knocked the Patriots out of the first-round bye. The result of that was New England going home early against the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round, who also on paper was expected to defeat the Patriots.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) January 2, 2021
Repeat after me; You Play To Win The Game, the famous saying by Herm Edwards. The Jaguars will be up against Indianapolis, the Bengals against Baltimore, and Pittsburgh will play Cleveland, despite starting Mason Rudolph at Quarterback. 2 team’s picking in the top 5 of the 2021 NFL Draft and a playoff team resting starters is what Miami will be relying on, shall they lose.
Whether they start Josh Allen or Matt Barkley, they will be ready. If I remember correctly, the last time, we saw Matt Barkley was in Week 17, 2019, against the New York Jets, where he went 18/35 for 232 yards, 0 TDs, and 2 INTs. The Bills lost that game 13-6 but were already locked into the number 5 seed in the 2019 Postseason. Before that, Barkley came in after a Josh Allen injury against the New England Patriots but could not bring his team to victory. This year heading into Week 17, they’re not locked into a seed. They’ll need a win or a Pittsburgh loss to clinch the number 2 seed in the AFC. So what do the Bills do? Buffalo Head Coach Sean McDermott has kept things quiet all week on whether he will rest players like Josh Allen, Stephon Diggs, and Tre’davious White.
If Buffalo decides to start Josh Allen for a series and then pull him, or even list Allen as inactive, I’m sure Brian Flores and Josh Boyer have already started looking at tape from Matt Barkley from his 2 games from 2019.
The Miami Dolphins did not receive great news this week that backup Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick tested positive for COVID-19. Though Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to pull his inner Mariano Rivera and close the game out for Miami in Week 16 against the Las Vegas Raiders, Miami will not have that option this week against the Buffalo Bills and likely will not have Fitzpatrick in their playoff matchups, assuming the Dolphins make it.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) December 31, 2020
Luckily to this point, the Dolphins have not had any major COVID-19 outbreaks this season. One team dealing with one at this moment in time is the Cleveland Browns, who will be short-handed for a second week in a row as they face Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. This could put more fuel on Mason Rudolph to go out there and win and avenge their game from last year where their game against Cleveland ended in a brawl where Browns DE Myles Garrett attacked Rudolph with a helmet in a 21-7 Browns win on Thursday Night Football in Week 11 2019. A Steelers win over Cleveland puts Miami in the postseason.
Though many scenarios for this coming week favor the Miami Dolphins, they can’t simply rely on the other teams behind them to lose, nor rely on whether the Bills play their starters or not, which makes this a possible ‘Do Or Die’ scenario.
There’s no Ryan Fitzpatrick, as you know, but the last time these two teams met, the Dolphins gave up a total of 523 yards to the Bills in a 31-28 loss in Week 2. I do not know if a single Dolphin fan who thought that Miami would end up leading the league in scoring defense(18.8) entering Week 17 after the first two weeks of the season, I sure did not. That was a game that featured Byron Jones getting hurt in the first defensive series with a groin injury, which led to rookie first-round pick Cornerback Noah Igbinoghene to have the job of covering Bills Wide Receiver Stephon Diggs. Diggs finished with 8 catches for 153 yards. Luckily, Igbinoghene was not the only player Stephon Diggs has burned this season because he happens to be leading the NFL in receiving yards with 1,459 and receptions at 120 heading into Week 17. Though the status is unknown whether he plays or not, with a healthy Byron Jones and the NFL’s Interception leader in Xavien Howard, Miami’s defense is ready to prove that the defensive performance from Week 2 was a fluke. Remember the last time the Dolphins got beat defensively in Week 2 against a division rival at home and then went to their rival’s house and won? That was 2019, but a different opponent in the New England Patriots. Miami can do it again but against the Bills.
Let’s get to the elephant in the room when it comes to the Ryan Fitzpatrick COVID-19 diagnosis. I am talking about the Miami Dolphins’ rookie Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has had a decent season, despite the lack of offensive weapons. Not once but twice has Tua been pulled for Fitzpatrick this season when he has struggled, whether offensive line protection, not attempting to squeeze the ball into tight windows, or holding the ball too long, or receiver not being able to get open. Those are all factors; there is no single absolute answer to Tua’s struggles from the Denver game and the Raiders game. The first time Tua got pulled, Fitzpatrick could not lead the comeback. The second time, it worked. Head Coach Brian Flores does not have that option this time around, so if Tua struggles against Buffalo, I doubt we will see Jake Rudock taking snaps. Tua is staying in unless there is an injury.
This means that Tua needs to have his best game of the season this Sunday. I believe he will come out and perform well because he’s done it before. Throughout his college and pro career, there have not been moments too big for Tua Tagovailoa. Even in somewhat cold conditions, I do not think it will be too big for him, though he is from Hawaii and played college football at Alabama. Speaking of the weather, Josh Katzker, on the DolphinsTalk.com Daily Podcast’s bonus episode, gave a weather forecast for this Sunday in Orchard Park, New York. Expect a high of 37 and a low of 30, with a 40-50% chance of snow during the Dolphins-Bills game. So not your typical Bills home game weather-wise for late December/Early January.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) January 2, 2021
With the weather being bearable and the possibility that the Bills rest their starters, there is no excuse for the Miami Dolphins in this possible Do or Die situation, they need to take care of their business, or they will likely be spending some time after the game watching the Colts-Jaguars games, hoping for a Colts loss, that is assuming the Browns and Ravens win their games a 1 pm. The Dolphins do not want to be anxious for another 3 hours and depend on the team who clinched the worst record in the NFL for 2020 and the Number One overall pick in Jacksonville’s 2021 draft. The goal is simple but not easy, win, and you are the number 5 seed. It will result in a celebratory plane ride back to South Florida and set up a road matchup against the AFC South Division winner. There will be many scoreboard watching from fans, but the Miami Dolphins are in the driver’s seat and need to make the most of this possible Do or Die Situation. Just win.