When the 2020 National Football League season kicked off 15 weeks ago, the New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins. New England’s post Tom Brady era got off on the right foot, while the Dolphins loss, their first of three in the first four weeks of the season, left Miami fans where they have been for years … looking up at the rest of their AFC East Division opponents.
What a difference a day makes, is a common expression, but in the Dolphins case, it truly is what a difference a month makes.
Because, since those early season setbacks in September, the Dolphins have been one of the best teams in the league. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick guided Miami to a pair of lopsided wins headed into their bye week, a road win over the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers, 43-17, and a whitewash at home of the New York Jets, 24-0.
Now, one can surmise that the Dolphins plans before the season even began was to insert rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa into the starting role coming out of their Week Seven bye. Fitzpatrick didn’t lose his job based on his performance, he was enjoying one of his career best seasons, but Tagovailoa was announced as the Week Eight starter for the Dolphins home meeting against the Los Angeles Rams.
There were good reasons for the Dolphins to insert Tagovailoa. With a quarterback rich draft coming up next April, the Dolphins brass needed to see if last year’s top pick was the real deal. If he was not, they would have to pull an Arizona Cardinals tactic. Arizona had picked Josh Rosen in the first round three years ago, played him enough to evaluate he was not their guy, and spent the first pick in the next draft on Kyler Murray.
If Tagovailoa didn’t demonstrate the promise of being a franchise quarterback, Miami would be well served to, like the Cardinals, admit a mistake and quickly rectify it while spending another high draft pick to find a man they think can lead them to the Super Bowl.
The win over the Rams was accomplished by three key elements. First, it was a bad motivational spot for Los Angeles, a team favored on the road after a Monday night win and headed into their bye week. Second, it was the defense of the Dolphins that stood out in the victory, holding Jared Goff and company to 17 points. Finally, Tagovailoa led the Dolphins to three touchdowns in his first start and Miami’s special teams added a fourth on a punt return.
Before last week’s home loss to the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Dolphins had won five of the six games Tagovailoa started, their only loss a setback in Denver when Miami’s rookie quarterback was sidelined with an injury.
So, what do we have here?
First, the Dolphins will not be needing to spend their first pick next April on a quarterback. And second, the Dolphins defense is for real.
Which leaves us with this. While the Patriots beat the Dolphins on opening day before this young Miami team found its footing, since October, Miami has emerged as one of the NFL’s best teams and in need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
What better way for the Dolphins to bounce off last week’s loss than to win this week and accomplish two goals; eliminate Bill Belichick’s team from playoff possibilities and enhance their own prospects.
Qoxhi Picks: Miami Dolphins (-2½) over New England Patriots