Dolphins fans, awake and arise. Your annual midseason rest is over. The bye week is finished and you won it. You crushed it, really.
You did nothing Sunday but review their first half and got everything right from the morning sighting of New England owner Robert Kraft dropping his head in despair watching another Patriots loss. And offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien lighting into quarterback Mac Jones on the sideline.
And Jones throwing an Interception of the Year candidate.
And coach Bill Belichick again answering questions about his future.
That it happened in Germany, land of Schadenfreude, only made it more fitting (OK, Frankfurt was site of the Dolphins loss last Sunday, too). You can understand some sadness watching the mighty Patriots collapse to the AFC’s worst record.
You’re just allowed to enjoy their fall considering all the years they gloated about winning.
Here are nine other ways the Dolphins won the weekend even with HBO’s “Hard Knocks” setting up in their midst right now:
2. The New York Jets still have no offense. The lost to Las Vegas 16-12, in the kind of game that shouldn’t be put on prime-time TV. The Jets fell to 5-5, which is still better than expected, and the Hail Mary to their season is if Aaron Rodgers comes back. It won’t matter. He’ll get hurt again, and quickly, behind that offensive line.
3. Remember when the AFC East was considered the toughest division in August? It’s trending more toward the worst now. The Patriots can’t win. The Jets can’t score. And Buffalo? It plays Denver on Monday but its season is in such a descent the ESPN computer gives it a 54 percent chance of making the playoffs. All of which means the Dolphins’ road to the AFC East title is cleared. This division is theirs.
4. Baltimore blew a two-touchdown lead in the second half and lost at home against Cleveland. It fell to 7-3. The Ravens had the look of a great team, before this game reminded us they’ve had a hard time consistently being great. They showed it’s still a safe place to doubt them.
5. Cincinnati lost. Another team that was coming on strong was beaten at home by a surprising Houston team. Joe Burrow looked like he was healthy and ready to make a strong run through the end of the season. Maybe he still does. But Cincinnati fell to 5-4 and last place in the AFC North. Another contender in trouble.
6. Jacksonville didn’t just lose but got smashed by San Francisco at home 34-3. You never know how a good team will respond to that kind of loss, but the only good team they’ve beaten was Buffalo in London, which gets an international discount. Jacksonville still has an easy schedule in front of it. But when you’re eyeing home-field playoff pictures, any loss involving a contending team matters.
7. The Chargers? They’re Charger-ing. They’re the definition of a good team you never have to worry about too hard. Justin Herbert. The bottom line of Sunday is he threw four touchdown passes and led five consecutive touchdown drives with receivers hurt and little running game. But Brandon Staley’s defense gave up 41 points to Detroit. Staley, as a reminder, is a defensive coach whose defense ranks 31st.
8. Sunday’s combined results bumped up the Dolphins’ playoff chances to 94 percent (via ESPN), 91 percent (via The Sporting News). The question turns to getting a home-field game in the playoffs and that means …
9. … taking care of business with an upcoming schedule of: the Raiders, at the Jets, at Washington, Tennessee and against the Jets. None are gimmes. But that’s five teams without a winning record. That will add to the idea that Dolphins haven’t beaten a winning team, but that doesn’t matter to them. It will add to the chances of a division title and a home-field advantage. That’s what matters.
10. Quote of the day: “I think we’re all disappointed in the season. But we’ll keep going here. Seven games to go. Be ready to go next week against the Giants.” — Belichick after Sunday’s loss.