The Miami Dolphins haven't made the playoffs since 2008. They are now 8-5 after blowing a big lead to Arizona on Sunday but then kicking the winning field goal in the south Florida rain as time expired. That's the good news. The bad is that the Dolphins are seventh in the AFC standings and will have to beat out most likely the Denver Broncos or AFC North runner-up between Pittsburgh and Baltimore for that final wild-card spot (Oakland or K.C. will get the first one) without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
It actually was good news on Monday when the Dolphins got tests back on Tannehill's knee and he suffered only a sprained ACL and MCL instead of a torn ACL as the team feared. I was watching that game against the Cardinals, and Tannehill was pretty emotional on the sideline after the injury. It sure seemed like he thought he had torn the ACL. If that had been the case, obviously Tannehill wouldn't play again this season and it would have been a race against the clock to get healthy for Week 1 next year. Just ask someone like Kansas City's Jamaal Charles how tough it can be to get back from a torn ACL. But the sprains will not require surgery. Tannehill's streak of 77 consecutive starts will end this Saturday at the New York Jets, who opened at +3. Yes, a Saturday game. It's that time of year where the NFL schedules some of those with the college football regular season having concluded.
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The team thinks it's possible Tannehill could play Week 17 or in the playoffs, but that seems rather pie-in-the-sky. Will Week 17 even matter? The Dolphins almost surely would have to win this Saturday and then Week 16 in Buffalo, both possible, before hosting New England to close the regular season for it to matter. Perhaps the Pats are locked into their playoff seeding by then and rest their starters.
But assuming Tannehill is done, he will finish with a winning record as a starter for the first time in his career. He is completing 67.1 percent of his passes for 2,995 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He's not a great QB by any means but better than journeyman backup Matt Moore, who hasn't started a game since 2011. Moore was 3-for-5 for 47 yards in relief of Tannehill vs. Arizona. Moore hit Kenny Stills on a 29-yard completion that eventually set up Andrew Franks for his winning chip-shot field goal for the win.
Here are some Week 15 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday night's game (Rams-Seahawks; thus I will touch on Jeff Fisher's firing Monday in that story), Sunday's marquee matchup (most likely Lions-Giants) or the Monday night game (Panthers-Redskins).
Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills (-10, 42.5): If you read my Friday NFL news update story, I touched on coaches likely to be fired and wrote about a Bovada prop on whether Rex Ryan would be back in Buffalo next year. Hopefully you took my advice on no he wouldn't because the Bills lost at home to Pittsburgh to fall to 6-7, and they are going to continue the NFL's longest playoff drought. There were multiple reports that the team might fire Ryan as early as Monday but now apparently he will finish out the season before getting canned. Ryan also wouldn't say whether he would continue starting Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. It sounds like just about everyone in the franchise has soured on Taylor even though the Bills gave Taylor close to $8 million in new money back in August as part of a contract that includes a five-year option. If Taylor is on the roster on March 11, it would trigger $31 million in new guaranteed money. There's no way Taylor's getting that money. Management also wants to see what fourth-round rookie Cardale Jones has. Remember, he was thought of as a very promising prospect when he replaced an injured J.T. Barrett and led Ohio State to the first College Football Playoff title two years ago. Jones probably would have been late first- or second-round pick had he declared then. He didn't, struggled in 2015 and lost his job to Barrett. I'm sure the 0-13 Browns would be thrilled to see Jones in there. The pick: Bills if it's Taylor and "under" regardless.
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons (-13, 51.5): This has the highest opening total of any game and the biggest spread of Sunday's schedule. I'll admit that I jumped off the Falcons in Week 14 when I heard that superstar Julio Jones and No. 2 receiver Mohamed Sanu weren't going to play. Jones was the surprise scratch as he's dealing with turf toe, but everything I read was that he would suit up. I actually thought the Rams had a good shot at home to upset the Falcons. And now I feel stupid for ever backing the Rams -- good riddance Fisher! -- as Atlanta rolled 42-14 to stay tied atop the NFC South with Tampa Bay. Matt Ryan threw for three scores and the Falcons' defense forced five turnovers by that sorry Rams offense. I do wonder if this might be a trap game, however, for Atlanta. The 49ers obviously are terrible, blowing a 17-3 home lead against the equally awful Jets and losing 23-17 in OT, San Francisco's 12th straight loss. But I could see the Falcons looking ahead to division games at Carolina and home to New Orleans to close the regular season. The pick: I'm going to wait and hope this rises to about two TDs and then I am taking the Niners.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (-7, 46): This game was "flexed" into the Sunday night slot a couple of weeks ago. So, are you worried yet Cowboys fans? Their offense has looked pretty inept in back-to-back weeks, and Twitter is all abuzz with fans wanting the team to bench rookie Dak Prescott for Tony Romo. Prescott has not been good of late. He threw for just 139 yards in a close win at Minnesota in Week 13 and then was an ugly 17-for-37 for 165 yards with the first multiple-interception game of his career in Sunday's night's 10-7 loss at the Giants. That defeat prevented Dallas from clinching the NFC East or a first-round playoff bye, although it could do both here. Owner Jerry Jones and Coach Jason Garrett said pretty adamantly that Prescott remains the starter. He might have a short leash against a Bucs defense that has played like one of the NFL's best in Tampa Bay's five-game winning streak. That unit picked off Drew Brees three times in Sunday's 16-11 win. It's the first time in Brees' career he had back-to-back three-INT games. The pick: I'll wait on this to see if I can get 7.5 and then take Tampa. Under regardless.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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