The Miami Dolphins head into the final two weeks of the regular season occupying the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC. But as far as coach Brian Flores is concerned, his team must approach Saturday night’s game at Las Vegas with a playoff mentality.
“Our playoff is this week against the Raiders,” Flores said. “We’re in a one-game season.”
The Dolphins and eighth-seed Baltimore are both 9-5 heading into this weekend’s action but the Ravens, who host the New York Giants (5-9) before finishing up at Cincinnati (3-10-1), on paper have a big edge in the remaining schedule. After playing Las Vegas (7-7), which mathematically still has a very slim chance at making the playoffs, Miami must travel to Buffalo (11-3), which has already clinched the AFC East crown.
“It’s good to kind of (go) through that and realize we’re still playing meaningful football,” Flores said.
The Dolphins, who will spend their Christmas Day flying across the country to Las Vegas, eliminated the New England Patriots from the playoff race with a 22-12 victory on Sunday. Undrafted free agent Salvon Ahmed led the way, rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown, as Miami, despite starting six rookies on offense, rushed for 250 yards, breaking the 200-yard mark on the ground in a game for the first time since Dec. 24, 2016 at Buffalo, when it ran for 261 yards.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went 20-of-26 passing for 145 yards and an interception and also rushed for two touchdowns to improve to 5-2 as a starter. The fifth overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Alabama is completing 63.5 percent of his passes in his starts to go with nine touchdown passes and two interceptions.
Depending on how things go in practice this week, Tagovailoa could be matched up against his fellow Honolulu St. Louis High School alum, Raiders backup quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Mariota took over in relief for Derek Carr, who suffered a groin injury late in the first quarter in Thursday night’s 30-27 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He went 17-of-28 passing for 226 yards with one touchdown and one interception before leaving. He also rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, with eight of his runs accounting for first downs.
“I think that would be awesome seeing Marcus (play) because me and (linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill), we’re both from Hawaii,” Tagovailoa said when asked by reporters after Sunday’s win about the possibility of a potential all-Hawaii quarterback battle. “Marcus is from Hawaii. Me and Marcus went to the same high school. I think that (would) be something pretty cool, something special.”
However, Carr alternated snaps with Mariota in practice on Tuesday and said he’s “doing everything in his power” to try and play on Saturday night.
“We’ll see how it goes this week,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s chomping at the bit to play. We’ll do what we think is right for Derek and this team.”
Carr pulled up and grabbed the inside of his left leg while trying to scramble around right end, hopping out of the bounds and heading straight to the locker room.
“I went to sprint for the end zone and it just went,” he said of his groin.
The loss to the Chargers was the fourth in the last five games for Las Vegas, which ends the regular season at Denver. The Raiders are just 5-13 (.278 percent) in December-January games since the start of 2017. Only the Carolina Panthers (4-12) have a worse mark during that span.
Three defensive starters — safety Johnathan Abram, linebacker Nicholas Morrow and cornerback Damon Arnette — who sat out the loss to the Chargers with concussions were limited in practice on Tuesday, while defensive end Clelin Ferrell (shoulder) remained out. Safety Erik Harris joined defensive back Daryl Worley, cornerback Isaiah Johnson and wide receiver Henry Ruggs III on the COVID-19 list while linebacker Tanner Muse was shifted to injured reserve.
Miami guard Solomon Kindley, carted off with a knee injury in Sunday’s win, did not suffer any structural damage and could play Saturday. Kindley, a rookie who has started 13 games, was the only Dolphin to sit out Tuesday’s practice.
–Field Level Media