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Can The 6-9 Dolphins Finish Strong At Home In Finale?

Dolphins finish strong Curt Johnson via Flickr


Can The Dolphins Finish Strong Against Buffalo?

Last week the Miami Dolphins were eliminated from the 2017 NFL playoffs. Just three weeks ago, they dismantled Tom Brady and the Super Bowl-favorite Patriots. I wrote last week that Miami was playing in a must-win game to keep their playoff hopes alive. They are in a tailspin on both sides of the ball. The only consistent thing in Miami is the mediocrity surrounding this team. Playoffs are out of the picture. However, there is still football to play on Sunday. The effort has been a huge issue this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Whether or not the Dolphins finish strong with some passion, we may finally find out what this team is all about.

The Dolphins need to show up Sunday. This is a game they can very much win. Players who want to stay in Miami next season — like Jarvis Landry — will no doubt give 100 percent. Two weeks ago in Buffalo, the Dolphins faltered in the cold weather and couldn’t get anything going offensively. Playing at home is always a plus to close out the regular season. Jay Cutler is undoubtedly a better player in warm weather. The matchups favor Miami, and the Dolphins can call plays with nothing to lose. Fake punts, double pass, pull out all the stops and maybe even a win.

Adam Gase Needs To Let Loose

Everyone is well aware of what Jay Cutler’s limits are as a passer. He hits pretty deep balls often and has much better touch than Ryan Tannehill does. However, he cannot take over a game and lead his team down the field without help. Cutler just throws too many interceptions, 19 interceptions in 13 games and has thrown one in all but two games.

But Adam Gase has found ways to move the offense while not asking Cutler to do too much. When Miami gives Kenyan Drake 20 or more carries, the offense plays better. In two convincing wins against Denver and New England, the stats alone give you the recipe to win games. 23 carries, 120 yards, and 25 carries for 114 yards back to back games. Coincidentally, the Dolphins dominated the clock and kept a fresh defense all day long.

Running the ball exhausts the opposing defenses physically and mentally. There shouldn’t be a question whether or not the Dolphins finish strong if the players want to win. It’s not rocket science. Feed Drake and let Cutler sling it downfield to DeVante Parker. Jarvis Landry is the best slot receiver in the conference — if not the NFL. Give him those quick, short passes and let him work in open space. Don’t call screens with an offensive line that can’t block for it, and don’t ask Jay Cutler to be Dan Marino. If Adam Gase can do even a couple of these things, the Dolphins offense can move against a sub-par Bills defense.

Matchups Favor Miami

It cannot be stressed enough how vital home field advantage is in the NFL. Their Week 15 bout in Buffalo was the Dolphins’ first cold-weather game in about a year. Playing at home gives the Dolphins a tremendous intangible edge. Additionally, the Dolphins play significantly better at home.

The stats tell a good story for Dolphins fans. Miami’s offensive ranks are putrid, to say the least. Sitting at 28th in total offense, they could easily be dead last, and I would not be surprised. However, the Bills defense isn’t exactly the same unit we have seen the past few seasons. They are 25th in total defense and give up 126 yards on the ground per game. That’s good news for Kenyan Drake, who rushed 16 times for 78 yards two weeks ago in Buffalo. Surprisingly, the Dolphins rank 19th in passing offense. That is both a byproduct of inconsistent Adam Gase playcalling and always playing from behind. I do think the Dolphins finish strong and I expect a heavy dose of Drake against a bad rush defense.

Which Miami Defense Will Show Up?

Defensively, Miami isn’t in terrible shape, all things considered. The injury report on defense seems to be pages long every week. As mentioned earlier, effort and execution have been this defense’s downfall. The players can play, it’s just up to them how good they want to be. The good news is that the Bills can’t really throw the football.

They are dead last in passing offense while the Miami defense is 17th. Xavien Howard and Reshad Jones have been really consistent the last few weeks. With no real deep threat, Jones will get to sit in the box and spy Tyrod Taylor. Howard can lock down Kelvin Benjamin with the exception of an end zone fade. Stack the box and force Taylor to beat you with his arm. LeSean McCoy will test an average Dolphins defensive front seven early and often. The Bills do own an explosive rushing offense that’s ranked sixth in the NFL. Davon Godchaux has been dominant next to Ndamukong Suh in recent weeks and should slow down that rushing attack. However, the Bills are a physical team that nobody likes to play. Can the Dolphins play with more effort than we have seen all season?

Bottom Line

The outcome of this game is more than wins and losses. How will they show up? The Bills do not have more talent than Miami. But, everyone in the Dolphins organization knows this, which is what makes this season so frustrating. The Bills play with physicality and execute better. In a game of inches, that is all that matters sometimes. The Miami Dolphins’ pride is something they need to showcase on Sunday.

If the Dolphins finish strong, they can end this nightmare of a season on a positive note. Nobody wants to end their season with a loss. A regular-season finale win at home is the best possible finish to a season as tumultuous as this one. The Bills are fighting for a playoff spot that some Miami players thought would be theirs. Time and again the Bills have spoiled Miami’s playoff chances. This is their chance to create some havoc, and have fun doing it.