Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Thursday, November 20, 2008
Big November games rare for Miami


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

DAVIE, Fla. -- If the oddsmakers are correct and the New York Jets aren't quite good enough to be the first to beat the Tennessee Titans, then the Jets will have company atop the AFC East on Sunday afternoon.

The teams that are one game behind the Jets will play each other when the Miami Dolphins host the New England Patriots.

That means the Dolphins, who went 1-15 last year and started the season 0-2, could be tied for first place in the division.

"From where this team has come from?" marveled Dolphins cornerback Nate Jones, who spent his previous three NFL season with the Dallas Cowboys. "To be 6-4 right now and looking at possible first place, we all envisioned it. I don't know how many people bought into it outside of this room, but we all envisioned it.

"We're walking the walk right now."

It will be the most significant game for the Dolphins this late in a season since they played the Philadelphia Eagles on "Monday Night Football" in December 2003. That also was the last season the Dolphins finished with a winning record.

"It's a game that actually means something, one of the only ones I've been in," Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder said. "We were always just a game for somebody, and we were trying to be the spoiler. Now, we're not trying to be the spoiler. We're trying to be a contender."

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano on Monday said if "your heart's not racing a million miles an hour then you don't have a pulse. This is why we do what we do. We put ourselves in a position to have a big game at home here at the end of November."

But since Sparano made those heady remarks it sounded like somebody gave a locker-room speech to throw on the brakes.

Some players on Wednesday tried to downplay the game's connotation with a similar phrase.

"We definitely want to come out and get a win, but by no means is it going to make or break our season," outside linebacker Matt Roth said. "We still got a lot more games to play."

Said Jones: "We want to keep everything in perspective. We all know this is a big game. Aw, man, the outcome of this could mean a lot down the line as far as playoff runs and all that. But we feel this won't make or break our season."