By Abe Gutierrez
Given the way the Miami Dolphins’ season has gone, is it possible that it’s their destiny for Ryan Tannehill to be healthy in time to compete in the 2016 NFL playoffs?
Ryan Tannehill’s recovery right on schedule
On Wednesday, Miami began preparing to host New England in the regular season finale. Fins fans would be glad to know that Tannehill appears to be right on schedule with his recovery from a Grade II MCL sprain and a slight ACL tear in his left knee.
The former Texas A&M standout had his cast removed last Friday and is no longer using crutches, although he was still seen walking with a limp. Even Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was reluctant to rule him out of Sunday’s game at Hard Rock Stadium against the Pats, which has raised some eyebrows.
“I don’t know yet,” Gase said when asked if Tannehill would definitely not play in Week 17. “I don’t know where the doctors have him or how he feels. I haven’t really asked, I just told them, ‘once you guys have something different, then, come talk to me.’”
Picking up the slack in Tannehill’s absence
On Dec. 11, Tannehill suffered an injury that tends to carry a 4-to-6-week recovery timetable. That means that the earliest he could be healthy enough to play would be in two weeks time when Miami plays in its first postseason game in eight years.
Based on the current AFC playoff picture, the most likely scenario is that Miami will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers on the weekend of January 7. Currently, the Dolphins have Tannehill listed as “day-to-day” rather than “week-to-week,” which was the case prior to having his cast removed.
In Tannehill’s absence, Miami clinched a spot in the tournament by going 2-0 and getting some needed help from the Kansas City Chiefs. During that span, 32-year-old veteran quarterback Matt Moore has led the way, aided by a monster performance from running back Jay Ajayi in last week’s overtime win in Buffalo.
After a pair of starts (three games played), Moore has completed 58.5 percent of his passes going 31-for-53 for 516 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions for a quarterback rating of 113.4.
Dolphins vs. Steelers rematch is Wild Card Round likeliest scenario
If Miami remains in the sixth seed, they will travel to Heinz Field to take on Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in the first round of the AFC playoffs. As Fins fans recall, Miami thrashed Pittsburgh 30-15 in Week 4 of the 2016 NFL season, which would make for an intriguing rematch.
On that eventful day, Miami’s offense was unstoppable and the defense was impenetrable. Tannehill threw for 252 yards on 24-of-32 passing, while Ajayi ran for 204 yards on 25 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the D-unit held the Steelers to 297 yards of total offense, limited them to 3-of-11 on third down conversions, and won the always-crucial turnover battle, 2-0, by picking off Big Ben twice.
Prior to missing the first start of his NFL career, Tannehill was in the midst of one of his best stretches as a professional, earning a quarterback rating of 100.1 during an eight-game span. On the season, he’s completed 67 percent of his passes, going 261-for-389 for 2,995 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions along with 39 rushes for 164 yards and a score.