The Miami Dolphins looked dead to rights in the first half of the 2021 NFL season. Brian Flores’ squad got off to an abysmal 1-7 start, but Miami is now one of the hottest teams in football. All eyes will be looking at Tua Tagovailoa as the Dolphins face the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. The second-year quarterback is in a prime position to lead this resurgent team to the NFL playoffs.
The Dolphins now control their playoff fate
The Miami Dolphins enter their Week 16 matchup against the New Orleans Saints on a six-game winning streak. The last time they lost was in Week 8 to Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.
The Dolphins are arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now, and they’re in a great spot to keep the momentum going. With the AFC as tight as it is, every game counts. Brian Flores and company know they must keep winning to reach the NFL playoffs.
At this moment, Miami holds a 7-7 record, on the outside looking in. The Baltimore Ravens are currently the 7-seed in the AFC with an 8-7 record. However, the Dolphins control their own destiny.
The Los Angeles Chargers gifted Miami a late Christmas present by falling to the lowly Houston Texans. The Dolphins would overtake the Ravens as the No. 7 seed with a victory over the Saints.
Coach Flores isn’t looking ahead, though. He knows his team must get past a dangerous Saints team that just knocked off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“You only have so much energy,” he told the Miami Herald. “I want to put all of my energy into our team and this game, and we’re going to need all of it against this opponent in this environment. They are very talented.”
Tua Tagovailoa gets opportunity to prove doubters wrong
The Miami Dolphins have reeled off this impressive six-game run with great defense and efficient quarterback play from Tua Tagovailoa. The latter must continue to elevate his game to help secure a spot in the NFL playoffs.
Questions still surround the former Alabama quarterback and whether or not he can be the franchise quarterback in Miami. He’s experienced some ups and downs in 2021, but he’s shown progression year over year for the most part.
Tagovailoa has missed some time due to injury, but he’s mainly been efficient when on the field. He’s thrown for 2,141 yards, 14 touchdowns, and eight interceptions while completing 69.9% of his passes.
The 23-year-old signal-caller has played well during the Dolphins’ winning streak. While Tagovailoa hasn’t been posting eye-popping stat lines, he’s doing enough to win games. He’s completing 72.5% of his passes over the last five games.
With a playoff spot in reach, Miami will need its young quarterback to stay healthy and efficient. Tagovailoa hasn’t shown that he can take over a game. However, he’s proving he can turn lemons into lemonade.
Tough matchups against the Saints, Tennessee Titans, and New England Patriots are looming. Tua Tagovailoa must show poise under immense pressure.
How far could Miami go in the NFL playoffs?
Following a rough start to the 2021 season, Brian Flores and the Miami Dolphins seem to have found what works for them.
The Dolphins are running the ball fairly well, topping the 100-yard mark in three of their last four games. Miami also isn’t asking too much of Tua Tagovailoa. That appears to be a decent recipe for success with this football team.
The biggest reason Miami has been able to go on this run is its defense. Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer’s unit is allowing 331.8 yards and 13.1 points per game during the six-game winning streak.
The Dolphins haven’t exactly faced elite competition during that stretch, but they’ve won the game on their schedule. These last three games will serve as a measuring stick to how good this team really is.
So, how deep could the Dolphins make it into the postseason?
The answer to that question probably rests with Tua Tagovailoa. The defense has been opportunistic. The running game has shown signs of life behind Myles Gaskin and Duke Johnson Jr. If the quarterback continues to play well, Miami could end up with a wild-card spot. If he folds under pressure, 2021 could end in disappointment.
It would be unfair to expect Tagovailoa to turn into an elite quarterback all of a sudden. That’s just not going to happen. However, a solid running game and physical defense will at least give Miami a chance.
The Dolphins have a realistic shot at reaching the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2016. Still, they must continue taking care of business to make it happen.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.