Do or Die: Why the Miami Dolphins’ Season Will Be Decided This Week Against the Jets

It is important to delineate between an important game and a must-win. For the Miami Dolphins, Week Four features a true must-win game as the team faces off against the New York Jets. The team is playing in their second divisional showdown in as many weeks, and it will be a test of their resilience. Can the Dolphins bounce back and take home a victory, or will they fall for the third consecutive week? 

Must-win games are a product of circumstance. You can spot an important game immediately once the schedule is released. Games that you have no choice but to win are a creation of the team’s performance throughout the season. If the Miami Dolphins had won against Buffalo and Jacksonville, then this wouldn’t be a must-win game. It would still be important, as all divisional matchups are key in reaching the playoffs, but a loss would not have derailed the season. Because Miami did lose against their last two opponents, they truly have no choice but to win against the Jets if they want to save their season.

While it is hard to imagine any way to be positive heading into a Dolphins game after their recent performances, the circumstances here feel awfully familiar. Just last season Joe Philbin lit a fire under his players by threatening with the benching of Ryan Tannehill. How did the team respond? By beating the Oakland Raiders 38-14 in London.

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The trip overseas will be a positive for this team. The climate is toxic in South Florida right now, as fans search for answers and a scapegoat for the Miami Dolphins’ recent struggles. Joe Philbin is being blasted everywhere, and it is impossible for the players not to let the noise get to them. The best way for the team to get away from the drama is to literally get away. They have left the country, and will not be faced with constant chatter calling for Joe Philbin’s job when they are in London.

Another positive is that Todd Bowles is taking his team overseas for the first time. It is difficult for a first-year head coach to manage the massive change in routine that is playing a game in the league’s International Series. While there are not too many positives to Joe Philbin, he had something figured out last year that allowed his team to stay ready even overseas. Yes, they were playing against the Oakland Raiders, but the team looked as good as it ever had under Joe Philbin that week. In this year’s game they are facing off against a divisional opponent (the first matchup of its kind ever to be played in London), so the pressure will be on.

At this point, I would rather have the team playing this game in London than I would at Sun Life. The Dolphins have a huge fan base in the UK, and it will be a massive celebration. The crowd at home would have more resembled a firing squad.

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The Miami Dolphins have their bye week following their trip to London, which is a blessing and a curse. The presence of a full week off makes this game even more threatening. If the Dolphins lose in London, it will be a miserable two weeks for Dolphins fans until the game against the Titans. There would surely be “anonymous source” and insider tips about dysfunction in the locker room or a lack of support for Joe Philbin. The latter of those things is probably true, but the media-vultures will circle around a full week with no real news to report on the team.

The players would go into their time-off feeling defeated, and it would be nearly impossible for them to return from the bye week strong if they lose against the Jets. The noise would be too much. With favorable matchups immediately upon the team’s return, it is imperative that they be ready for the middle portion of the season. Before two brutal divisional road games (New England then Buffalo), the team would have a chance to get above 0.500, with games against the Titans and Texans. For Miami, it is hard to imagine a situation in which these games are won if the London trip is not a victorious one.

The Miami Dolphins will likely have an advantage in fan attendance, and have an edge in terms of previous experience in London. The stage is set for Coach Philbin to show that he has the ability to bounce back, and do what he did last year by turning the team around on their London trip. Even if they win, Joe Philbin has to show us something. I feel that the team could emerge victorious on the effort of players alone, but that will not fool fans who know Joe Philbin’s deficiencies. He has to show us that we were wrong, if only to earn his job for another week.

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This matchup is a mirror of last year’s game that Miami played in London. They can now decide which of the two teams from that game they will be, themselves or the Raiders. Will they emerge victorious after a slow start, or will a loss send their team and staff into array, costing us the season? This is the team’s fourth and goal down by seven, their last second buzzer beater, and their at-bat with bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth. One more shot to show us what they’ve got. It is time for the Miami Dolphins to decide which team they will be in 2015.

The ball is in their court.

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