We are there, right there, right outside the door to something special – something as good as it gets in sports, really.
It’s the kind of new year that can feel new right from the start. Because it’s the kind of Sunday that makes you think if everything breaks down, and the formula for the last seven Miami Dolphins wins holds, they can get a game that makes a memorable race a magical season.
So much has happened for the Dolphins as they have won seven games in a row. So much will happen the rest of the way from Sunday if this is to be one of the seasons everyone remembers.
This Sunday in Tennessee is about getting the Dolphins to next Sunday against New England. Next Sunday can get them in the playoffs. No one thought it was possible after a 1-7 start. Nobody thought it likely, even when they solved some problems in the defense, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa got healthy and won a few games.
Now they are in the middle of playoff talk, even though not many at the national level are talking about them. Sunday may change that. Sunday can confirm everything about the past seven weeks.
Winner, and their row runs to a historic eight in a row. Wins, and they take the current No. 2 seed down into the AFC, on the road and in the cold. These ingredients also matter.
Tennessee is 6-2 at home. Only Kansas City, Green Bay and Tampa Bay have better home records this year. They are also all Super Bowl favorites.
And the cold? It is expected to crash into freezing weather in Nashville at kickoff. The wind is expected to be 15-25 mph. This is the kind of weather the Dolphins have rarely played in and even less often won in.
They have lost their last six games in weather below 40 degrees. They are 3-8 in such matches over the last decade.
These dolphins have not been aware of conventional thinking, so there is no reason why they should worry about historical cold patterns. Most of the list has at least flipped over the last few years.
Ryan Tannehill was one of those who went. It was the best career move he could make. The former Dolphins quarterback’s three seasons in Tennessee have ended in the AFC title fight, the opening round of the playoffs and wherever this goes in the playoffs.
The Titans are the AFC’s second seed now. They are a good team, a tough team. Nor do they have their big playmaker in running back Derrick Henry. They have lost to humble Houston and New York Jets this year. They have lost to a mediocre Pittsburgh team and squeaked by a mediocre San Francisco team the last two weeks.
They are vulnerable enough, in other words, if the dolphins are good enough. The Dolphins have a defense that has won two months of fighting. The Dolphins have, at their best, an efficient and flawless quarterback in Tagovailoa. Can the Dolphins rise to the weight class on Sunday and still run on that formula?
Everyone knows that fun has been limited for Dolphins fans the last few decades. There was Bill Parcells walking around the locker room, with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown in collars after a win in their playoff push in 2008, saying, “Let’s do something special!”
There was also coach Adam Gase’s Dolphins who showed up with Tannehill (until he got injured) and reached the playoffs in 2016. After that season, Gase said, “We’re just started.”
That’s not how it went. Maybe this era works better. It’s a Cinderella world for the dolphins right now, one where they can take the glass slipper on Sunday against Tennessee and confirm the good work they’ve done the last two months. Or the clock may strike midnight.
It’s the good Sunday the dolphins have played their way into. They need one more good Sunday to get to the last Sunday. No one thought they could come here as this strange season broke out. Now they are here, right here, standing in a new year on the edge of something special.