Extra points: 10 more thoughts on another Dolphins win. Are playoffs becoming possible?

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The Miami Dolphins are on a roll and put together perhaps their best performance of the season Sunday with a 33-10 win against the Carolina Panthers at Hard Rock Stadium.

They scored a season-high in points, nabbed three interceptions and piled up five sacks, and even scored on special teams in the first quarter to dominate the Panthers in all three phases.

The Dolphins (5-7) are now just two wins away from reaching .500 after starting the season 1-7 and they’ll have a real chance to do it with back-to-back games against the last-place New York Giants and New York Jets in Miami Gardens.

Here are 10 more thoughts from the Dolphins’ fourth straight win:

Dominant defense, offensive explosion leads Dolphins over Panthers in 4th straight win

1. Playoffs?! Let’s not get too carried away, but Miami (5-7) is at least ready to make things interesting down the stretch.

The Dolphins entered the weekend with a 5 percent chance to make the 2022 NFL playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight, and their odds will of course increase a bit with their lopsided win Sunday. They’ll even be pretty significant favorites in their next two games against the Giants and Jets, so let’s give them two more wins and say they get back to .500 next month.

Their chances would still only climb to 12 percent.

Miami’s final three games are on the road against the New Orleans Saints, on the road against the Tennessee Titans and at home against the New England Patriots. A loss to the Patriots would be crippling and, realistically, Miami probably has to win out and get to 10 wins to even really have a shot at making the postseason in the American Football Conference. At this point, it’s not impossible, though.

2. A big finish is starting to feel realistic. The Dolphins project as a 5 1/2-point favorite against the Giants and a 12-point favorite against the Jets, according to FiveThirtyEight, and are even right now projected as a slim favorite against the Saints. This winning streak could stretch into the new year, and then Miami only projects as a three-point underdog to the Titans and a two-point underdog to New England at home.

Of course, the Dolphins have to deliver on the field, but they look like a team capable of it now.

On this four-game winning streak, Miami is allowing just 288.5 yards per game and holding opposing quarterbacks to a 53.5 completion percentage while totaling 16 sacks.

The offense is getting better, too. The Dolphins’ 33 points Sunday were their most in a single game all season.

3. It starts with Tua Tagovailoa. In his first five games, Tagovailoa was just 103 of 157 for 1,040 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions, and a meager average of 6.6 yards per attempt. The quarterback didn’t play in the first win of the streak, then came off the bench in the middle of the second against the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 11 and has been great since.

In three games since coming back from a finger injury, Tagovailoa is 62 of 77 for 661 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and is averaging 8.6 yards per attempt.

The second-year quarterback went 27 of 31 for 230 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the NFL’s stingiest pass defense and posted a quarterback rating better than 100 for the third straight game. Still only 16 starts into his NFL career, Tagovailoa keeps playing better.

Surging Dolphins, Tua rout Carolina for 4th win in row. If 5-7 can be remarkable — this is | Opinion

4. Jaylen Waddle takes a leap. Sunday was full of firsts for the rookie wide receiver: his first 100-yard game, his first 50-yard catch and his first public unveiling of the “Waddle waddle,” a new signature celebration for the 23-year-old.

Waddle finished with nine catches for 137 yards and a touchdown, and had the longest catch of his career when he turned a slant into a 53-yard gain in the second quarter. He had already proved himself as an impressive short-yardage possession receiver and now he’s flashing the big-play ability he was known for when he starred for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Waddle, who was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has topped 60 yards in every game of this winning streak after he did so only three times in his first eight games.

5. Jaelan Phillips takes a leap, too. Phillips is having a similar second-half emergence. After a slow start, the Dolphins’ other first-round pick playing about as well as any rookie edge rusher from this Draft class.

The linebacker is up to 6 1/2 sacks — second most among rookies — and has five in his last four games, with at least a half sack in every game of the winning streak.

6. Jevon Holland makes it 3 for 3 with the top rookies. With an interception and a tackle Sunday, Holland is now up to 36 tackles, two interceptions, six passes defended, two sacks and two fumble recoveries.

Quibble with lots of decisions general manager Chris Grier has made, but he seems to have found three great players with Miami’s first three picks in the 2021 Draft.

7. The Dolphins have found a successful defensive identity. Holland makes a lot possible for Miami, which has decided it’s going to blitz a ton — with linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks alike — and try to torment quarterbacks.

It’s how the Dolphins upset the Ravens earlier this month and it’s how they held Cam Newton to 5-of-21 passing Sunday. Miami rushed seven on its first defensive play of the game and never relented. The result was three interceptions, five sacks and just 198 total yards for Carolina.

8. Xavien Howard hits a milestone. With a second-quarter interception Sunday, Howard became the fastest player to collect 25 interceptions since 1990, hitting the mark in only his 67th game. The Dolphins now are only minus-1 in the turnover margin after spending most of the year in a deep hole.

9. Did the Dolphins find a running back? Miami just claimed Phillip Lindsay off waivers Wednesday, but still gave him 12 carries Sunday and he looked solid, picking up 42 yards. Fellow running back Myles Gaskin had a second straight good game, too, following up an 89-yard performance last Sunday with two touchdowns and 49 yards against the Panthers.

10. Duke Riley comes out of nowhere. It was a thorough enough beatdown for it to get overshadowed, but Riley helped set the tone for the Dolphins and deserves credit. The linebacker blew up star wide receiver D.J. Moore on third down of Carolina’s first possesion, forcing the Panthers (5-7) to punt from their own end zone and then he blocked the punt to give Miami a 7-0 lead.