By CBSMiami.com Team

(CBSMiami)- It’s crunch time for Brian Flores and the Dolphins. Three games remain and the team is holding on to the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. The remaining schedule is the hardest of any of the teams around them in the playoff standings making the chances of a playoff berth lower than one might expect.

A good first step towards the postseason would be picking up a win this weekend when the New England Patriots come to town. The Pats took the first matchup 21-11 all the way back in Week 1. But, both teams have been on quite different journeys since then. For NFL on CBS play-by-play man Andrew Catalon, the way the Dolphins have rebounded since starting 1-3 has put Flores at the top of his list for Coach of the Year.

“A lot has changed for Miami since Week 1, they’ve really righted the ship and I give a lot of credit to Brian Flores. To me, he’s the Coach of the Year in the NFL. He’s done a tremendous job getting this team from where they were when he took over to where they are now which is with a chance to get in the playoffs,” said Catalon. “Different quarterback than Week 1, the defense has really come together. The way that they get takeaways and put pressure on the quarterback is much different than it was when they met back in Week 1. I think this Miami team knows what’s in front of them. I think they know they have a chance to get in the playoffs and that those appearances have been few and far between for Miami since Dan Marino retired. I think Flores will have them ready to play.”

Flores will have some competition for that honor no doubt, but his case is a strong one that would be made stronger by taking what was a 5-11 team last season and turning them into a playoff team. That begins Sunday with the Patriots visit. Miami had trouble stopping the New England running game in Week 1, allowing 217 yards on 42 carries (5.2 avg). Catalon points to that battle as the key this week.

“That has to be the key number one for Miami is stop the run. Try to make Cam Newton and that passing game beat you. That’s the thing with Miami, they stop the run, then they can really get after the quarterback. They blitz all the time because they have so much confidence in their corners Xavien Howard and Byron Jones to hold up in man-to-man coverage,” said Catalon. “If they’re able to slow down the run, then they’re going to start blitzing and they know they have such a strong back end with those two corners. That is to me what makes Miami so dangerous defensively.”

Newton and the Patriots were stymied last week by the Rams so there is certainly potential for Miami to do the same. The question then shifts to the offense and how they handle the Patriots defense. The Dolphins got some good news Wednesday as receivers DaVante Parker and Jakeem Grant both participated in practice despite hamstring injuries and running back Matt Breida made his return to practice for the first time since being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on December 4. Tight end Mike Gesicki remains a question mark for Sunday after injuring his shoulder against the Chiefs. Will Tua have enough weapons to get the job done against a still stingy Patriots passing defense?

How that question is answered Sunday will play a big role in the Dolphins postseason hopes. Lose Sunday and the team’s playoff chances drop from 25 to seven percent in FiveThirtyEight’s projection model.

Kickoff at Hard Rock Stadium is set for Sunday, December 20 at 1:00 p.m. EST on CBS.

CBSMiami.com Team