Let’s start with the bad news, Dolphins fans.
Even after Sunday’s stunning win over the Bears, your team would still be on the outside of the playoff field looking in if the season ended today. The Dolphins would be the seventh seed and the only of the four 4-2 teams left out by virtue of a losing out on the conference record tiebreaker to the Ravens.
Now the good:
There are still 11 weeks and 10 games to go. And the Dolphins are in historically great position to get to the postseason.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Since the league expanded to eight divisions in 2002, 77 of the 124 teams that started 4-2 went on to make the playoffs. That’s 62 percent. (One of those 47 teams to miss out? The 2017 Dolphins.)
But those numbers lack context. Leading analytics websites use more factors (e.g.., efficiency rankings, schedule strength, etc) to come up with a more precise prediction.
And depending on the source, the Dolphins are either overwhelming favorites to return to the postseason or a little worse than a coin flip.
The most optimistic Dolphins outlook?
That comes from Football Outsiders, which gives the Dolphins a whopping 66.6 percent chance of reaching the postseason and a 44.6 percent chance of winning the division for the first time in a decade.
But the numbers crunchers at both the New York Times and FiveThirtyEight are far more bearish on Miami’s chances. The Times has 42 percent to reach the playoffs and 26 percent to win the AFC East. FiveThirtyEight has nearly the same odds (43 percent and 22 percent).
This is all a long way of saying the Dolphins are in it, and based on the soft upcoming schedule, probably will be for some time.
They emerged from their first real challenging stretch at 1-2 — and remain tied for first in the AFC East despite losing Ryan Tannehill for an undetermined length of time.
Sunday’s 31-28 victory against the Bears not only helped mitigate losses to the Patriots and Bengals.
It also proved the Dolphins can be explosive on offense, even with Brock Osweiler at quarterback.
The Dolphins roasted arguably the league’s best defense for 31 points and 541 yards — a result almost no one saw coming.
The lone exception? Adam Gase.
“I’m messed up enough to think that’s what it’s going to be every week,” Gase said Monday.
He has a chance this weekend to prove this new-found production is no fluke.
The Lions, under first-year head coach Matt Patricia, are not on Chicago’s level. But their defense isn’t terrible either. Detroit ranks 18th in yards allowed (367.8 per game) and seventh in pass defense (222). But the Lions have the league’s 25th scoring defense (27.4) and the third-worst run defense (145.8).
That helps explain Detroit’s 2-3 start to the season.
And it should give the Dolphins at least a 50-50 chance this weekend, even if Osweiler starts again.
What’s more, Sunday starts a stretch of three eminently winnable games for the Dolphins after a rough last three.
The Patriots, Bengals and Bears are a combined 11-6.
The Lions, Texans and Jets — Miami’s next three opponents — are a combined 8-9.
And two of those three games are at home, where the Dolphins have lost just five times in their last 19 games.
Granted, this is just a snapshot in time, and the Texans and Jets look far more formidable than they did just three weeks back.
But the Dolphins offense seems to be getting healthier. And more importantly, they’re figuring out their identity.
Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake are a formidable 1-2 punch.
DeVante Parker played just four snaps through a quadriceps issue Sunday, but should get stronger in the weeks to come.
And the Dolphins’ offensive line, with Laremy Tunsil back healthy, was spectacular Sunday against one of the league’s best fronts.
“Having Laremy out there makes a big difference,” Gase said. “And our guys did a good job of executing what we talked about doing.”