What it means: Despite all their issues on and off the field, the Dolphins (5-5) are back in the thick of the AFC playoff race after a big win. Miami is tied with the division-rival New York Jets (5-5) for the sixth seed in the conference. The Dolphins still play the Jets twice in the month of December, and both games are shaping up to be important.
Stock watch: Someone who improved their stock was Miami tight end Charles Clay. He had a big day with six receptions, 90 yards and a 39-yard touchdown catch where he ran through three would-be tacklers. Miami’s running game also improved, but had a low bar to work with. The Dolphins rushed for 104 yards against the Chargers after gaining a franchise-low 2 yards last week in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As far as stock down, Miami’s pass protection was an issue again. Without starting center Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins’ offensive line allowed four more sacks, which upped the total to 41 this season. The Dolphins’ run defense also allowed 154 rushing yards, and has underachieved in that area most of this season.
Focus a premium: The Dolphins will have some trouble staying focused during the upcoming practice week. NFL investigators are expected to visit the practice facility to talk to multiple players, coaches and executives about Jonathan Martin's claims of bullying and harassment. Martin met with NFL lead investigator Ted Wells for seven hours last week, which should provide plenty of questions for Dolphins personnel once Wells arrives. Miami still has a game to prepare for, and must handle this distraction.
What’s next: The games do not get any easier for the Dolphins. They will host the streaking Carolina Panthers, who have won five straight. Miami will get a chance to scout Carolina on Monday. The Panthers will be coming off a short week, and have a big game against the New England Patriots on ESPN’s "Monday Night Football."