It is time to adjust expectations for Miami Dolphins as playoff hopes fade

Any NFL team can win on any given Sunday. Everyone on the field is a professional football player, everyone gets paid, blah, blah, blah.

You hear the same lines every time a team loses a game it's not supposed to, and Sunday in London, the Miami Dolphins (1-5) lost a game they were not supposed to lose.

At least, that was the thought before their 23-20 loss to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars. It might be time to adjust expectations for a Miami team that was supposed to challenge for a playoff spot.

Since 1990, 111 teams have started their season 1-5 and only three bounced back to make the playoffs. That was, of course, during the six-team playoff era, not the seven-team format that began last season, but at this rate the playoffs seem like a pipe dream for the Dolphins no matter how many teams qualify.

After winning its season opener, Miami has lost five straight, including Sunday against a team that had lost its previous 20.

"It's frustrating, but this is the business we're in," tight end Mike Gesicki said. "We've just got to make a couple more plays -- we are extremely close."

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa returned to the field after a three-game absence and wasn't perfect but still threw for 329 yards, completing 70% of his 47 passes.

But his return couldn't mask issues that have plagued the Dolphins all season.

Their defense allowed 6.4 yards per play despite holding Jacksonville to 3-for-12 on third down. They failed to protect a two-score lead for the second time this season -- and they have only held two multiple-score leads.

Sunday's loss wasn't the final nail in the Dolphins' playoff coffin -- there are still 11 games left -- but it sure feels like rock bottom.

"I'm not doing a good enough job," coach Brian Flores said. "Not playing consistently enough. Not coaching well enough. Not playing well enough. ... Consistent ball -- first half, a little bit in the second half, but we're just not putting it together. That starts with me."

Miami sent its 2022 first-round pick to the Eagles this offseason as part of its trade up to No. 6 overall in the 2021 draft to select wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Teams don't make a move like that unless they expect to be a playoff team, which didn't seem like a stretch for Miami after winning 10 games in 2020.

But it might be time to come to terms with the fact that the Dolphins are not a playoff team. According to ESPN's FPI, Miami owns the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL but has a 7% chance to make the playoffs, in part because its record is the same or worse than every remaining team on its schedule.

Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer said last week that the Dolphins are what they put on film, and right now that's a 1-5 team that ranks 29th in scoring offense and scoring defense.

"Is it disappointing that we're 1-5? Yes. But it's early," linebacker Jerome Baker said. "This team is hungry. ... Don't count us out yet. We're going to be good."

But the season is more than one-third of the way done. Miami is three games out of the final playoff spot and its Week 7 opponent, the 2-3 Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS), can't be viewed as a "get right" game anymore. Right now, Miami is the get-right opponent for other teams. The Jaguars proved as much this week.

"We are a young team. We have to get better," defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said. "Hate losing. We have to do a better job closing out games and finishing games, and we're going to keep fighting. That's the type of spirit we got. We're going to keep fighting till the very end."

Nobody is doubting that Dolphins players will keep fighting. But if they are indeed what they put on film, their effort level can only get them so far.

This just might not be the type of team their front office thought it was entering the season.