Playoffs out of reach, but what’s on the line for Dolphins in finale vs Patriots – The Mercury News

When the Miami Dolphins lost their final game of the 2021 season, a disappointing 34-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans, it rendered their home finish against the New England Patriots meaningless.

The Dolphins (8–8) were eliminated from playoff contention, and the AFC East Rivals matchup at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday and the 4:25 p.m. kickoff shattered the prospect of a win and scenario.

But don’t say it’s meaningless to Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who, in addition to always coaching to win, would prefer nothing more than to stick to his former organization that he spent a decade and a half as an assistant coach and scout. Spent. Under Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Does Flores believe in the notion of ending a season on a high note? When their 2019 five-win team ended with a win in New England, it led the Dolphins to an astonishing 10-6 campaign in 2020. After that season ended with a crushing defeat at the Buffalo Bills that kept Miami out of the postseason, the Dolphins then started 2021 with a 1-7 record, before a seven-game winning streak landed them in contention. brought back.

“I think it’s always important to put your best foot forward and compete,” Flores said. “That’s what this game is about. So yeah, I think it’s very important.”

There’s a pair from two decades ago that the Dolphins could accomplish with a win over the Patriots (10-6). A win would signal a victory for the franchise, after Miami finished New England 17-16 in the season opener in Foxboro. Patriots’ first season sweep since 2000, Belichick’s first season is over there. The Dolphins may also end with back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003.

“The goal is to win the game,” said Flores, who also has the option of watching some young practice squad players in-game. “We’re going to play with the people who give us the best opportunity to do that.”

For the Patriots, he has already secured a berth after the season, but Sunday’s game has important seeding implications. The Patriots can go as high as No. 1 in the AFC with a win and as low as No. 7 with a loss. The top-seeded scenario is highly unlikely as it requires four other big ups and downs and the Kansas City Chiefs’ win over the Denver Broncos could be ruled out as of Saturday night. On Sunday evening against the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills handed Buffalo the division title and restricted the Patriots to a 5 to 7 wild-card seed.

there is Chances are it’s quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s last start with the Dolphins As he ends his second season. After being heavily involved in Watson trade talks with the Houston Texans around the trade deadline and the final off-season, Miami may consider acquiring proven top-tier quarterbacks such as Deshan Watson, Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson at the end of the season. .

The same can be said with many others dolphins that are sedentary free agents – Defensive end Emmanuel Ogba, tight end Mike Gesicki and others. Miami is projected to have an NFL-leading $74 million in cap space going into the 2022 offseason.

Dolphins rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who was The team was named MVP for the season. This past week, Anquan is three catches away from breaking Boldin’s NFL rookie reception record (101).

Waddle has stated that he wants to help the team win games in order to earn the record, and Flores indicated that the play calling may not necessarily end soon enough to get Waddle off the record. Miami aggressively plans to remain in its natural flow.

The Dolphins will get their second in rookie Patriots quarterback Mac Jones on Sunday. He faced them in his NFL debut in Week 1, and although Miami won late, Jones impressed, completing 39 of 29 passes for 281 yards and one touchdown.

Dolphins defensive end Emmanuel Ogba said last week that Belichick “found a gem” in Jones.

Cornerback Xavian Howard said: “When I saw him play and the stuff he was doing, I was like, ‘He’s not a rookie.’ He was doing something like he had been a little minute in the league.”

Jones, who completed 67.6 percent of passes for 3,540 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, handled most of the blitz thrown by the Dolphins on Sept. 12 at Foxboro. This impressed Flores.

“Good command of crime, prepared, good decision maker,” Flores said of Jones. “As a whole offense, it complements each individual player’s skill set. Run game, pass game – I think [Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels] A great job has been done by keeping those people in good positions to get success. He’s clearly done a good job with Mac.”

Contrary to typical scenarios of a eliminated team negatively impacting their draft position with a late-season win, this is not the case for the Dolphins this year – at least not in the first round.

With Miami’s first-round pick going to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dolphins’ place in first place is tied to where the San Francisco 49ers finish. Dolphins fans can pick a top-18 for San Francisco to pull out of the playoffs in Week 18. If the 49ers (9-7), with either a win against the Rams or a Saints loss to the Falcons, reach the postseason, the pick will top that number and deep into the round if San Francisco draws again. can fall from. An upset in the wild card round.

The Dolphins recover on Sunday while Patriots have defensive back Kyle Duggar and linebacker Donta Hightower enter eight other suspects in the game day.