The Miami Dolphins season has been a roller coaster thus far. From the 3-0 start, to the four game losing streak that followed. The skid that was snapped with a thrilling overtime win against the Bengals only to return to the loss column in deflating fashion the next week against the then winless Buccaneers. On top of everything that has happened on the field, the team was also faced with the ongoing Richie Ingognito and Jonathan Martin saga.
Despite it all, the Dolphins own a 5-5 record and find themselves in the thick of the playoff race, trailing only the Jets based on the divisional tiebreaker.
While reflecting on Miami's first ten games, it's clear they have let some winnable ones slip away. Three of the Dolphins five losses were decided by 3 points or less (Ravens, Bills and Buccaneers). However, it's easy to look at the results and only focus on the close losses and claim the Dolphins should be an 8-2 team, but what about the close wins? Miami wasn't expected to earn a victory against the Colts, Bengals or even the Falcons when they were still considered a Super Bowl contender back in Week 3. By keeping the entire season in perspective, its clear the 5-5 record is an accurate reflection on where the Dolphins stand. An average team in a wide open conference.
With that said, the strength of the conference is meaningless at this point. All that matters is that the Dolphins have a realistic shot at claiming the 6th and final seed in the AFC and must do everything possible to ensure they are playing postseason football.
Not only does Miami have a realistic chance at their first postseason berth since 2008, they also control their own fate with six games remaining. They hold crucial tiebreakers on the Chargers and Browns while still having to play the Steelers in addition to two games against the Jets. There are no excuses, Miami doesn't have to rely on any other teams. If they take care of business on their own, they will be taking the field in January.
It's a safe bet to say that the team that finishes the season 9-7 will be the 6th seed which means the Dolphins will need to finish 4-2 to make it happen. With a schedule of vs CAR, at NYJ, at PIT, vs NE, at BUF and vs NYJ remaining, its certainly possible.
Whether or not the Dolphins can accomplish this feat rests on the shoulders of two people: quarterback Ryan Tannehill and head coach Joe Philbin. Both are in their second seasons at their respective positions and both have a lot to prove.
Making the playoffs this season will, in my opinion, end the search for a quarterback. If he is able to lead his team to a 4-2 record and the wild card round at the very least, he has proven himself capable of being a franchise quarterback. Tannehill doesn't lack any of the physical attributes but there are still aspects of this game that can be polished and mental mistakes, such as going out of bounds instead of letting the clock run in last week's win, must be reduced. There is still untapped potential there.
As for Joe Philbin, the Incognito-Martin saga has put him on the hot seat. Pending the investigation findings, a playoff spot might be the only thing that saves his job. However, if he is able to lead his team through the adversity and to the organization's first winning record in five years, he can quiet the doubters and the speculation about his replacement.
For Miami, there is a lot riding on these final six games and the outcome will go a long way in determining the long-term outlook of the franchise.