Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins have reached the midpoint of the season and are at the crossroads of either becoming a playoff team or looking forward to next year.
The Dolphins had a chance to move into a tie in the AFC East on Sunday if they could have beaten the Indianapolis Colts. But Miami had no answer for the passing display Andrew Luck put up and lost the game 23-20.
The loss left the Dolphins at 4-4 on the season and now have to play two games in a five day span. The good news for the Dolphins is they will likely be favored in both games. The first game is Sunday against the 3-5 Tennessee Titans and the second is in Buffalo against the 3-5 Bills.
The problem for the Dolphins have been all over the place in the losses this season. One week it’s the special teams not being able to convert field goals against the Jets and then on Sunday it was the offense unable to capitalize at the end of the game.
The Dolphins offense is ranked 20th in points scored this season and 23rd in total yards gained. The team has at times been carried by the defense which gives up a lot of yards, but is ranked 7th in the league in scoring defense.
Still, on Sunday against the Colts, the Dolphins had zero pass rush outside of All-Pro defensive end Cameron Wake, the reigning AFC defensive player of the month. But the Dolphins desperately need a pair of victories over the Titans and Bills because has several land mines after that.
In Week 12, the Dolphins have to play the upstart Seattle Seahawks followed by a visit by the New England Patriots and then in Week 14, travel to San Francisco to play a very stout 49ers team.
The Dolphins then get another reprieve with games at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills before heading to New England in Week 17 to close out the season.
If the Dolphins win the games they are supposed to, they are likely looking at an 8-8 record without a victory over Seattle, New England, or San Francisco. Considering the team was projected to go anywhere from 4-12 to 6-10, 8-8 would be a welcome sight for Dolphins fans and leave them clamoring for more next year.
The season, thus far, has seen the emergence of Ryan Tannehill as the Dolphins’ franchise quarterback and Reggie Bush continuing on as an every down back for the team. Tannehill is competing 58.9 percent of his passes for 1,762 yards, 5 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and averages 220 yards passing per game.
Bush has seen his per carry yards drop to 4.4 from 5.0 last year, but is still on pace to rush for 1,000 yards this season as he has 534 yards at the halfway point of the schedule. But the running will get tougher as the schedule toughens in the coming weeks.
One area the Dolphins are paying close attention to this season is left tackle. The team doesn’t have a reliable backup for Jake Long, but he’s due for a contract extension and will want one of the richest in NFL history.
The Dolphins will have to decide whether to give Long money for what he’s done in the past. This season, Long has been beaten a lot by the better pass rushers off the edge and could be playing his way out of the richest contract ever for a left tackle, currently held by Cleveland’s Joe Thomas.
The Fins will also have questions to answer coming up about the defensive line. Cameron Wake is signed long-term, but defensive tackle Randy Starks, who has quietly become one of the better tackles in the league, will be a free agent next season.
The Dolphins biggest problem defensively has been getting a consistent pass rush from someone other than Wake and giving up big yards in the passing game. Luck torched the Dolphins for more than 430 yards on Sunday and the Fins gave up 373 yards passing to Oakland and 300 to the Rams.
But the first thing the Dolphins need to do is reel off two straight wins over inferior teams in a five-day span. If they lose one or both of those games, the second-half of the season could be very long for the Dolphins.
A pair of wins would give the Dolphins momentum heading into the toughest part of the schedule and possibly have people in Miami talking about Jim Mora’s favorite word: playoffs.