It seems like ages ago but before the Incognito-Martin story went all Chernobyl, the Dolphins beat a good Bengals team on a Thursday night game that featured only the 3rd overtime walk-off safety in NFL history. The win came in dramatic fashion, considering the Dolphins were up by 17 points for the second week in a row at that point, then promptly fell apart again in the 3rd quarter. The Wake safety saved the season for the Dolphins - and possibly GM Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin.
So here are the Dolphins at 4-4 with a lot of football to play and, theoretically, all of America waiting for a team implosion. The team goes Across The Shaft to play a winless Tampa Bay team that (after Jacksonville's win yesterday) is officially the worst team in the NFL and beset by a ton of their own problems.
The teams are so maligned that ESPN's commercial for Monday Night Football hangs heavy on the Veteran's Day 'angle' rather than try and muster up anything remotely good to say about these shitty franchises as delineated below.
Let's look at some keys as these two teams prepare to out-barf each other:
1. Will the Dolphins Implode or Pull Together?
The Incognito-Martin saga has been a total shitshow from top to bottom, so the question is how will the Dolphins respond on the field? All of the talk coming out of the locker room has been how this has pulled the team closer together, but all it will take is a few turnovers or falling behind early to test how much 'closer' the Dolphins really are. If there was ever a team or scenario of being on the road that would favor this troubled Dolphins team, it's against a winless Tampa Bay team that hates its coach and is coming apart at the seams. However, this is the Dolphins we're talking about here -- a team that has often found fantastically original and historically unfortunate means of disappointing its fans time and time again.
2. Oh Yea, Our Offensive Line is Still Crappy and Maybe Crappier Now
The flipside of the Incognito-Martin lovers quarrel is that there're now two possibly crappier guys that are protecting Ryan Tannehill - a guy who's been sacked 35 times and had tons of issues holding onto the ball. The Dolphins will go with the Clabo-Garner combination that got them through the Bengals game against a fairly crappy defensive line (aside from the very-good Gerald McCoy) for Tampa Bay. The Dolphins must find a way to help these guys on the right side of the line. Generally, Garner has been quite the gamer (he may have played just about every offensive position during an injury-riddled Thursday night game a few years back) but Tyson Clabo is a turnstile and will need help on the right side from the running backs and ummm Michael Egnew? Good luck, Tannehill!
3. Will Mike Wallace Have a Single Catch Against Darelle Revis?
Revis started off the 2013 campaign slowly as he recovered from a reconstructed knee but recently Revis has started to play like his old, press coverage self. Mike Wallace, as you may know, is the $60 million dollar man who has generally played like a bag of hot giraffe shit and has burst into his Dolphins career with lackluster performances and many a dropped pass. This is probably not the game to expect Wallace to have that first, true breakout performance so have a few 'motherfucker's and 'Goddamit, Mikle Wallace $60 million for shit!'s around as the Dolphins try and spread the ball to Hartline, Rishard Matthews and the recently re-signed Marlon Moore. Too bad we drafted all those other awesome guys that have been inactive for nearly game instead of some young wide receivers like we needed!!!
4. Two Possibly Deadbeat Coaches Fighting for Their Jobs
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Coach Joe Philbin has generally looked like a guy watching his wife give a horse very gentle fellatio throughout this entire Incognito-Martin drama, so the reigning thought process is that he hasn't exactly handled this entire situation very well. The clear lack of leadership in the locker room as well the very clear realization that the so-called 'leadership council' in place within the Fins locker room is a sick fucking joke has jeopardized Philbin's job in ways that appear graver than his uninspiring 11-13 record as a head coach would suggest.
Also beset by troubles is Schiano in Tampa Bay, a situation in which a dickhead college coach tried to bring his dickhead college coach ways into a locker room filled with grown men getting paid millions. Schiano - winless in 2013 as of today - will most likely get fired by season's end but Philbin as well is on the precipice of losing the media, fans, the locker room, and, ultimately, his job if he cannot find a way to change his clueless M.O. A loss against the Bucs would only stoke the flames around the Dolphins and the ruling topics of discussion will slowly shift from the soap opera they've experienced over the last 10 days and more towards the on-field discussions of which heads need to roll on the field and in the front office.
The Miami Dolphins take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is at 8:40 p.m.