Dolphins at Bills, 8 p.m.Thursday (NFLN, WSFL)

No time to waste for Miami Dolphins

 

The odds are against the 4-5 Dolphins making the playoffs, but players say there is still a lot of football to be played.

abeasley@MiamiHerald.com

Few Dolphins players are as candid as Kevin Burnett. You might not always get the easy, conventional answer from him, but you will usually get the honest one.

Burnett held court at his locker Tuesday afternoon, talking about the Dolphins’ recent past (a 37-3 loss to the Titans on Sunday) and their immediate future (a crucial game Thursday in Buffalo).

“Right now, it’s no time for weakness or hurting, coming off — let’s call it what it was — a [butt]-whooping,” quipped Burnett [except he didn’t say butt]. “I think [playing Thursday] is good for us in a lot of ways.”

Burnett added: “Teams get hot and go on a tear. There’s a lot of football to be played.”

Burnett gave voice to what much of the organization has felt this shortened week: anger and disappointment over the lopsided defeat to Tennessee, and incredulity at the idea that the season is lost.

Optimism and perseverance are good things, particularly in a season that’s barely half over. But here’s a cold blast of reality in the aftermath of the Dolphins’ latest two-game losing streak:

At 4-5, they have roughly the same odds of recovering a late-game onside kick (when the opposing team expects it) as they do of making the playoffs this year. Both are long shots.

Since 1990, just 13 of the 115 teams that started 4-5 went on to make the playoffs, according to STATS Inc. And only two of those 13 teams finished with a record better than 9-7. Most years, it takes 10 wins to get in, and with six AFC teams currently 6-3 or better, there’s a good chance that will be the case again in 2012. That probably means a 6-1 finish or bust for the Dolphins.

“I don’t like math,” receiver Marlon Moore said with a sly smile. “For the most part, it’s all on us. We control our destiny. That’s the best way to say it. If we get these seven more games that we have, [if] we can rattle them off, ain’t no telling what can happen.

“But again, I don’t like math.”

Whether you’re a stats geek or not, there’s no denying that the Dolphins need to play better, and fast.

They don’t have a touchdown in six quarters. Ryan Tannehill is coming off his worst game since the season opener. The Dolphins’ running game has slowed to a crawl. Their defense can’t get off the field.

And they have lost despite being favored in each of the past two weeks.

So maybe it’s for the best that oddsmakers have given the Bills (3-6, and losers of three in a row) the edge, however slight, for Thursday night’s game.

Buffalo, meanwhile, has its own problems. The Bills are without their starting running back (Fred Jackson is out with a concussion), and their defense is putrid.

They rank last in the NFL in points allowed (31.7 per game), last in rush defense (163.7) and 31st in total defense (allowing 410 yards per game).

However, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has played better than his reputation, completing 62.5 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. The Dolphins, meanwhile, allow more passing yards per game than all but three teams in the NFL.

All that points to a shootout, assuming Tannehill can hold up his end of the bargain. His three interceptions against the Titans were jarring, but his inability to get the Dolphins in the end zone should be just as alarming.

Tannehill has just five passing touchdowns this year, the fewest in the league among quarterbacks who have started every game.

“I think the guys have done a good job of just picking me up,” Tannehill said. “Even throughout the [Titans] game, saying, ‘Just pick your head up and let’s go play.’

“You have to learn from your mistakes and learn from what you do wrong, but you can’t dwell on it, you can’t look back on the past,” Tannehill said. “You have to look forward and get ready for the next game.”

That next game comes in the Dolphins’ only nationally televised appearance of the season. Chris Clemons called it a “must-win,” and if it’s not, it’s darn near close.

“We know that we can’t lose any games in November,” center Mike Pouncey said. “We’ve already started off on the wrong foot.”

• The Dolphins have raised an additional $45,000 for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts on top of the $500,000 already pledged. The latest donation will go to the American Red Cross.

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