The Miami Dolphins control their own playoff destiny.  Win their last two games against division rivals New England and the New York Jets and they’re in.

The 8-6 Dolphins can afford to lose Sunday.  The 6-8 Green Bay Packers cannot.

For the Packers, there’s no margin for error.  They must win their last three games and get a lot of help from other teams to squeak into the NFC playoffs.

The Packers have taken care of business the past two weeks against inferior opponents with victories over the reeling Chicago Bears and the depleted Los Angeles Rams.

A much tougher tasks lies ahead on Christmas Day against the Dolphins, who have lost three straight contests and aspire to get back on the winning track.

Following a bye week and a 24-12 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Rams at Lambeau Field Monday night, the Packers have something seldom seen in this underperforming season:  momentum and a growing confidence.

Winning does that.  And quarterback Aaron Rodgers put it bluntly in his post-game press conference Monday night.

“We’ve played a couple teams we should have beat,” Rodgers said.  “That being said, it’s still tough to win in the league, and I said it earlier, I think we can beat anybody. We can also lose to anybody.

“When you win a couple in a row, it starts to give you some confidence now we’re playing against some better football teams down the stretch that we can go to Miami and win.”

Can the Packers run the table?  Rodgers believes.

“I do,” Rodgers said.  “Now we’ve got to play three better football teams, but I do (believe), definitely.”

It should be a playoff-type atmosphere in Miami.

“This is a really good football team that we’re going against,” head coach Matt LaFleur said.  “Obviously, they’re very hungry.  They’ve got a lot at stake.  We’ve got a lot at stake.  It should be a playoff-type game.”

Success against the Dolphins hinges on containing their explosive offense, led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and star receivers Tyreek Hill, who has 109 catches for 1,529 yards and seven touchdowns, and Jaylen Waddle, who averages 18 yards per reception.

The Packers offense has yet to truly explode this season, and they have the potential with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon powering the running game and Rodgers enjoying a full complement of receivers Allen Lazard, Christian Watson, Randall Cobb, Romeo Doubs, Samori Toure and Robert Tonyan.

The Green Bay defense will be tasked with keeping consistent pressure on Tagovailoa and the unit must limit the explosive plays—a specialty of Hill and Waddle’s.  The Packers special teams units have contributed to the team’s recent success, especially Keisean Nixon, who had ignited the return game.  And winning the turnover battle is crucial to the winner of Sunday’s game.

“I want to highlight this point,” Rodgers said after victory over Los Angeles.  “I said it in the locker room because it’s pretty amazing.  When we were talking about milestones and Mason and his 255th straight game, which is incredible, but in all my 18 years, I’ve never once, until tonight, seen an opposing team’s kicker kick away from one of our returners on purpose.  That’s fun.  That’s pretty incredible.  Big kudos to Rich and his staff, and obviously Keisean.  He’s been a big difference- maker for us.  You hate to do the what ifs and the look backs, but there’s definitely some ways that the players are playing for us, that you wonder how it would’ve been had things been a little different starting the season.”

NFL Week 16
















Dolphins 31, Packers 30

A shoot out in Miami but Tua and Hill outgun Rodgers and Watson as playoff hopes extinguished on Christmas Day.