Miami Dolphins

Can Ryan Tannehill lead the Dolphins to the playoffs?

Ryan Tannehill is set to return after missing time with a shoulder injury, but can he lead the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs.

Virtually out of nowhere heading into Week 6 against the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed up on the injury report and wound up being inactive. He has not played since, but according to multiple reports Tannehill will return and start Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

In the weeks before Miami’s Week 11 bye, Brock Osweiler held down the fort with a 2-3 record as the starter in Tannehill’s place. But the bye week seemed sure to allow Tannehill to get healthy and take back the starting job, and Osweiler hasn’t been good enough to change that course.

The Colts have won four games in a row, so Sunday’s game is suddenly pretty big in the AFC playoff picture with three other teams also sitting at 5-5. A loss probably won’t instantly torpedo Miami’s chances, but can Tannehill lead the team to the playoffs down the stretch?

After the game against the Colts, the Dolphins will face the Buffalo Bills (3-7), New England Patriots (7-3), Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7) and the Bills again over their final five games. Three of those games are at home, with two cold weather games against the Vikings (Week 15) and the Bills (Week 17) to note for a team that calls Florida home.

Counting the game against Indianapolis four of the Dolphins final six games are indoors or at home, where they are 4-1 this season. Winning out a home puts them at eight wins, which isn’t as unrealistic as it sounds with Tom Brady’s inexplicably poor history playing in Miami. Getting to nine wins is on track to be a minimum requirement to earn a wild card spot in the AFC. So that means beating the Colts, the Vikings or the Bills on the road, with winning two of those three a more ideal scenario.

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As a practical matter, the Dolphins would have to win-out if they go home with a loss to the Colts. It wouldn’t be impossible to pull off, but the odds are steep enough that Sunday’s game is a must-win in Tannehill’s return to action.

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