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NFL Playoff Preview: Miami Dolphins

© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins surprised many with a 10 win season under a rookie head coach. Can they turn more heads with a deep playoff run?

The Miami Dolphins are looking to make a splash (pun intended) this year with their first playoff appearance since 2009. Even though the team finished the season with an impressive 10 wins, it will be an uphill climb for this team to make any noise in the playoffs. Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been ruled out for a tough road test against a dangerous Pittsburgh team that was my preseason pick to win the Super Bowl. Having said this, the Dolphins still have an experienced backup QB in Matt Moore and an impressive offensive line that gives them a chance to surprise many in this year’s playoffs.

Key Players

Offense: RB Jay Ajayi, QB Matt Moore

If the Dolphins are going to beat the Steelers, they will need one of those trademark 200 yard games from Ajayi. The second year back he burst onto the scene in a Week 6 win over the Steelers. Ajayi rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in a 30-15 victory in Miami. 

This marked the first of what would be three 200+ yard games this season. Ajayi will need help from an offensive line that has surprised many this year with their impressive play this season. If the team wins their Wildcard matchup this weekend, Ajayi will most likely be the reason why.

With Tannehill out, Moore will need to step up for the Dolphins. Moore is an experienced backup quarterback who will need to take care of the football this weekend against an above average Steelers secondary. In his starts this season, Moore went 2-1 with eight TDs and three INTs showing he knows how to manage a football game. The 32 year old will be asked to manage the game, making the throws when needed for first year head coach Adam Gase. If Moore can take care of the football and Ajayi can establish a consistent running game, the Dolphins will put up enough points to win the football game.

Defense: DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Kiko Alonso

The defense will need to play lights out against the high powered Steelers offense featuring Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Suh will be charged with the tall task of applying pressure on Big Ben Roethlisberger as well as limiting the rushing attack of Bell. The Steelers will try to get Bell the ball more than their last matchup when he only had 16 touches in the entire game. One reason for those limited touches was the great play of Alonso. The young linebacker was given the task of spying Bell for a majority of the game, limiting his ability to make big plays. Alonso is a smaller, athletic linebacker who has the ability to shadow Bell all over the field. If he can play top level football, there’s a chance Bell can be contained.

© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Best Win and Worst Loss

Best Win: 30-15 over Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 6)

As previously mentioned, the Dolphins dominated the Steelers in their Week 6 victory. This win was Ajayi’s coming out party as he tallied 204 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. The defense limited Roethlisberger to 189 yards and forced two interceptions. Bell was limited to 53 rushing yards and Brown to 39 receiving yards. The Dolphins dominated every facet of the game, kick starting a six game winning streak.

Worst Loss: 38-6 to Baltimore Ravens (Week 13)

The Dolphins were embarrassed in Baltimore as the Ravens ended the Dolphins’ six game winning streak. Tannehill threw three interceptions as Joe Flacco lit up the Miami defense for 381 yards and four touchdowns. The Dolphins seemingly forgot how to play football in this game as they had no answer for Flacco and the offense. The loss came at a crucial time during which teams were vying for playoff spots. With a win here, the Dolphins could have separated themselves from the average AFC teams fighting for a Wildcard spot.

Previous Matchups with Playoff Teams

Week 1: 10-12 Loss at (3) Seattle Seahawks

Week 2: 24-31 Loss at (1) New England Patriots

Week 6: 30-15 Win vs (3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 17: 14-35 Loss vs (1) New England Patriots

Positives: Although 1-3, the Dolphins were able to keep the games close against top playoff teams. Week 17 was the only game in which the team did not look good against the Super Bowl favorite Patriots. Most importantly, the Dolphins beat the Steelers: the team they will face on Sunday.

Negatives: The Dolphins were only able to win one of their four games against playoff teams. Even though the team beat the Steelers, they will be without three key contributors in the secondary as well as their starting QB. Also, the team was dominated in the last game of the season, which is typically a better representation of how a team will play in the playoffs.

Performance Leading Into the Postseason

After their six game winning streak, the Dolphins finished the season off by going 3-2 in their final five games. During that stretch, the team allowed an average of 28 points per game to their opponents. They lost Tannehill for at least the Wildcard Round and are without their top three corners. A win in Pittsburgh looks to be an uphill climb.

© Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Level of Contender: Low

After surprising most around the NFL with an impressive 10 win season, the Dolphins are not expected to make much headway in the playoffs. To make a deep playoff run, the team will have to go on the road to Pittsburgh and beat a team that is playing their best football of the season. If they can accomplish that difficult feat, they will then be rewarded with a trip to Foxboro to take on Tom Brady and the 14 win Patriots. Tannehill is expected to be out for both games, making a tall task that much taller. Although expectations are low, the Dolphins have a recipe to win. All it takes is for Gase and company to follow that recipe.

Edited by Brian Kang, Peyten Maki.

Who did the Dolphins lose to in the 2009 NFL Playoffs?
Created 1/5/17
  1. Denver Broncos
  2. Baltimore Ravens
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. Indianapolis Colts

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