Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins Getty Images | Michael Reaves

A four-game losing streak and falling out of AFC playoff contention might not be the only thing raising eyebrows in Miami-Dade County heading into Week 17 of the 2022 NFL season.

After a disappointing 26-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers (7-8) on Christmas Day at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, the Miami Dolphins (8-7) received more bad news. Coach Mike McDaniel relayed Monday that Dolphins starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, 24, is in the NFL's concussion protocol, for the second time this season, ESPN reported.

Entering Sunday, FiveThirtyEight had Miami’s odds of clinching a postseason birth this season at 82%. After the loss to the Packers, that number is down to 65% heading into the final two weeks of the season.

Here are 3 things the Miami Dolphins need to do to make the 2022 AFC playoffs

Break The Losing Streak And Win-Out

Heading into Week 11, Miami (7-3) was in sole possession of first place in the AFC East. After a four-game skid the Dolphins are currently in 2nd place in the AFC East and have two tough contests against division rivals ahead of them in Weeks 17 and 18, against the Patriots and Jets, respectively.

Having a tight grip on the seventh seed, the playoffs started early for Miami. A loss will likely keep them on the outside looking in of the AFC playoff picture. Both the New England Patriots and the New York Jets are (7-8) and have a Hail-Mary shot of attaining the last playoff spot in the AFC.

The Dolphins control their own destiny, as a two-game win streak will guarantee a wild card ticket to the 2022 playoffs.

Clear Tagovailoa

In Week 3 of the 2022 NFL season Dolphins starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa led Miami to a 21-19 victory over division rival Buffalo Bills at home in Hard Rock Stadium. It did not come without controversy. Tagovailoa left the game and later returned to finish the game, however, there was speculation of potential concussion protocol violation due to symptoms the starting quarterback was demonstrating.

The following week the south-paw quarterback was cleared for a Thursday Night Football match-up against the Cincinatti Bengals in which he suffered an injury after a sack in the second quarter. The 2020 first-round draft pick was stretchered off the field and transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center with head and neck injuries.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to update the league’s concussion protocol on Saturday Oct. 8 following the high-profile incident involving the former Alabama standout.

Entering the concussion protocol for a second time in 2022, the Cinderella season that Tagovailoa appeared to be having, resulting in legitimate MVP discussions, has come to an abrupt halt.

With playoff hopes on the line the Dolphins look to see if they have one more wish in a healthy return for the third-year veteran. If not, Miami’s playoff chances rest on the shoulders of NFL journeyman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Commit to the run

In the Dolphins Week 15, a 32-29 loss to the Bills at Highmark Stadium, Miami's offense converted just 1 of 6 opportunities on 3rd-and-short. The Dolphins’ reliance on the arm of Tagovailoa created struggles in short-yardage situations, after failing to convert on all five drop backs.

Coach McDaniel spoke on his team’s lack of commitment to the running game, “You can either play scared, or you can try to continue doing what your offense is built to do,” he said defending his run-pass ratio, the Miami Herald reported.

However, when the opportunity presented itself to address the issues against the Packers on Sunday, his offense continued their passing ways. Running back Raheem Mostert rush for 45 yards on 8 attempts, while Jeff Wilson added 37 yards on 9 attempts, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt.

The rushing attack is there, and with the potential absence of starting quarterback Tagovailoa, the Dolphins will have to rely on and trust the legs in their back field to win Sunday at Gillette Stadium versus the Patriots.

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