A look at Miami's 'coulda, woulda' games

Some of the most prevalent e-mails we get from Miami Dolphins fans is their team should be competiting for a playoff spot if not for botching early games. Miami (4-8) started the year 0-7 but has since gone 4-1 in its past five games. Now, the team can only play spoiler in the final month of the season.

With that in mind, the AFC East blog decided to take a closer look at Miami's early games to determine if Dolphins fans are correct.

Game No. 1: Week 3

Opponent: Cleveland Browns

Final score: L, 17-16

What happened: The Dolphins led a close, competitive game throughout and took a 16-10 lead with about three minutes remaining. But Miami's defense, which was struggling at the time, allowed a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive late to Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, who threw the game-winning touchdown. Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne tried to rally the team for a late field goal but was intercepted on the final drive.

Coulda-woulda-meter: 8

Game No. 2: Week 7

Opponent: Denver Broncos

Final score: L, 18-15 (OT)

What happened: The Dolphins dominate Denver for more than three quarters and make Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow look awful. Miami takes a 15-0 lead with 7:34 remaining before Tebow leads a miraculous comeback at Sun Life Stadium. Tebow produces three scoring drives in the final 2:34 of regulation and overtime, which started the Tebow legend. Miami also failed to recover an onside kick that could have sealed it.

Coulda-woulda-meter: 10

Game No. 3: Week 8

Opponent: New York Giants

Final score: L, 20-17

What happened: Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall pretty much predicts Miami would win this game. He was close. The Dolphins played very well on the road against a heavy favorite. Miami led 17-10 in the second half until Eli Manning rallied to Giants to 10 fourth-quarter points. This was Miami's seventh straight loss, but the effort jumpstarted the team's turnaround.

Coulda-woulda-meter: 5

Yes, these three early games could have made a big difference for Miami. If the Dolphins won these three games, they would be 7-5, not 4-8.

But there are a lot of teams that can make this claim. The NFL is a league where many of its games come down to the wire. The Dolphins are winning those games recently, but now it's too late to make a playoff push. The Dolphins can only blame themselves.