Close your eyes for a moment and allow yourself to envision an imaginary football team that has reason to be optimistic about the final seven weeks of this NFL season.
That fictional team has a chance this weekend to thrust itself into the center of the playoff chase. That team has a chance to win another game with its backup quarterback at the helm, head to its bye week to heal wounds, and come back for the final six games with its starting quarterback.
That team has bobbed and weaved the past month, taking blows but avoiding a knockout punch, while the starting quarterback has been out.
That team has won games (plural) with a backup quarterback nobody liked before the season began.
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And today that imaginary team has a winning record despite injuries too numerous to outline in detail.
That imaginary team is 5-4, just swept one division rival, and has a chance to sweep another division rival in December because that team is simply horrible.
That imaginary team lost to the division’s best team earlier this year but has a chance to get a revenge win because the rematch will be played at home where the magical team is 4-1 this season and 4-1 the past five years against that division leader.
The picture is relatively rosy for this imaginary team, right?
The Miami Dolphins are this imaginary team.
So why does everything feel so awful?
“It’s been a strange season because even when we win we haven’t been able to enjoy it,” one team source said this week. “It’s actually been kind of miserable at times around here.”
Dolphins fans don’t expect their team to beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Fans aren’t expecting to beat New England at Hard Rock Stadium in December. Dolphins fans aren’t counting on Miami to sweep the Bills, or worse, have those games matter as part of a playoff push.
You guys are not a fun bunch at all.
And, I get it, you’re allowing history to shape your feelings and diminish expectations .
But that doesn’t explain why the Dolphins are not having a ton of fun this season. And let their be no mistake because they’re not.
The Dolphins beat the New York Jets on Sunday, completing a sweep of that team. And the next day coach Adam Gase was asked if it felt like a day after a win.
“No,” he said. “It’s slightly irritating.
“It is what it is. This is every day for me, so I’m kind of used to it.”
So where does this feeling of gloom come from? Because it has hovered around since early October.
My only explanation is that perhaps the Dolphins are victims of circumstance.
After the Dolphins beat the Jets, no one really celebrated getting above .500. The key issues instead were ...
... Reshad Jones quit during the game.
.... The offense stunk during the game.
.... And, of course, beating the Jets doesn’t matter because the Jets stink anyway.
The last win the Dolphins had before the Jets game came against the Chicago Bears Oct. 14. That was a resounding show for the offense as the Dolphins gained 541 yards. It was an exciting game the Dolphins won in overtime.
And were the Dolphins thrilled about that one?
Well, there was satisfaction but that success was clouded by quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s shoulder injury and what that might mean for the season’s arc.
Fine, but what about that three-game win streak to start the season? Yeah, the buzz from that evaporated when the Dolphins took a 38-7 whipping at New England in the fourth game. And then followed with a late loss to Cincinnati.
The problem for the Dolphins is they haven’t been able to enjoy any lasting success. A dark cloud has always shown up to ruin the sunshine.
Losses played a role in that because after consecutive losses to Detroit and Houston there was talk of benching players and a firing of defensive coordinator Matt Burke. The firing isn’t happening this year for Burke, but the benchings definitely happened last week.
And, per sources, multiple players were unhappy with the rotation system the Dolphins instituted against the Jets. Jones wasn’t alone on that front.
Jones was, however, the only one who manifested his displeasure by quitting on his team in such a public manner. And that issue took days to overcome.
But, here’s the interesting thing:
Despite some folks not having fun every single moment, the Dolphins generally feel they have a chance against the Packers. And that could change everything.
Dolphins coaches and players think the defense has a good game plan set to keep Aaron Rodgers from getting outside the pocket and creating havoc. And the offense will go into this game believing it has a chance to put points on the board if everyone avoids turnovers.
So there’s hope.
And if that translates to success, the Dolphins would be 6-4 by Sunday evening. That would make the bye week a sweet experience for everyone.
It would certainly lighten things up.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero