About the time each year we are trying to cook up inventive uses for leftover turkey other than sandwiches and soup is about the time the NFL playoff races hop onto the front burner for real. Thanksgiving Week. It’s when December is at hand and remaining games dwindle. It’s when byes are finished and the playing field levels for the stretch run.
It’s when the Dolphins better not lose to the lowly Jets or they can all but kiss 2014 goodbye.
Bunch of media chatter about this week being the 20th anniversary of Dan Marino’s famous “Clock Play” (fake spike) that beat the Jets, but it’s extraneous nostalgia. Here is the only anniversary that matters right now: It has been five years since Miami last won a Monday Night Football game.
Dolphins have lost five in a row on MNF since last winning in 2009, and eight of the past nine overall on that stage entering Monday’s date at the rival Jets. Miami’s easy remaining schedule — opponents have a .436 winning percentage, lowest of any AFC contender — won’t mean anything if the Fins blow it Monday.
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The fact all three Thanksgiving Day games were NFC affairs helps crystallize what the rest of Week 13 means for the Dolphins, who are 6-5 and currently sitting 10th (factoring records and tiebreakers) in the jockeying for six AFC playoff spots.
Losses by the Browns, Chargers, Steelers and Chiefs on Sunday would most benefit Miami, but only if that’s chased by a Monday win.
The Dolphins-Jets rivalry has produced some memorable Mondays. It was the 1980 backdrop to Howard Cosell informing America that John Lennon had been shot and killed. It was in 2000 when the Jets erased a 30-7 deficit early in the fourth quarter and astoundingly won 40-37.
This Monday needn’t be memorable.
For Miami, what it needs to be, simply, is a win. Fins have not lost to a team with a losing record. This would be an especially awful time to start.
FINS IN PRO BOWL
Four Dolphins — one more than last time — show up in fan Pro Bowl voting in the top 10 at their positions. (The vote ends Dec.15.) Defensive end Cameron Wake is running third with 177,384 votes, cornerback Brent Grimes (the new guy) pops in at sixth with 117,687, guard Mike Pouncey is ninth with 66,687 and return specialist Jarvis Landry is ninth with 33,253.
▪ Updated Super Bowl betting odds, via Bovada: Patriots (3-1), Packers (4-1) and Broncos (5-1) are clear favorites, then it’s a drop to Seahawks at 12-1. Miami now a 75-1 longshot, tied for 17th.
▪ Here’s why the 6-5 Dolphins are in jeopardy of not making playoffs: The 16 teams with at least seven wins — nine of those teams in the AFC — are most ever through 11 games.
▪ Here’s another reason why Dolfans are so hungry: Patriots last week clinched a 14th consecutive winning season, the sixth team in history to do that and first since 49ers rolled 16 in a row in 1983-98.
▪ Since the 1990 advent of current 12-team playoff format, 14 teams that were 5-6 have reached the postseason, but the only 4-7 teams to do it were the 1995 Chargers, ’96 Jaguars and 2008 Chargers.
▪ Bronco Wes Welker became third undrafted player in Super Bowl era with 50-plus career TD catches. Others are Antonio Gates (96) and Rod Smith (68).
▪ Eagles are first team since 1970 Packers to have two players (Josh Huff, Chris Polk) with kickoff-return TDs of 100-plus yards in a season.
▪ Bears’ Matt Forte became third-fastest player (102 games) to surpass 7,000 rushing yards and 3,500 receiving yards, after Marshall Faulk (97) and Marcus Allen (99).