The Miami Dolphins, having stumbled out of Baltimore, now face an AFC East championship game they hadn’t anticipated.

Despite a chance to triumph against the Buffalo Bills at home, the Dolphins’ once-promising regular season seems destined for a disappointing conclusion. Back in early December, they held a commanding three-game lead over the Bills in the division, sitting at 9-3 and seemingly poised for a No. 1 AFC seed. Meanwhile, the Bills were far from contention, teetering on the brink of playoff elimination.

But a series of late-game collapses shifted the Dolphins’ trajectory. A loss to the Titans after leading by 14 points with minutes to spare, followed by a humiliating 56-19 defeat against the Ravens, has forced them into a must-win situation in Week 18. The showdown between the Bills and the Dolphins will determine the AFC East champion and the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

The Dolphins were once the season’s darlings, boasting an unstoppable offense and visions of a Super Bowl run. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in MVP talks, and Tyreek Hill was a standout for Offensive Player of the Year.

Yet, the Dolphins’ narrative exemplifies the NFL’s fragility. Injuries ravaged the team: Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb were lost for the season, while key players like Raheem Mostert, Jaylen Waddle, Xavien Howard, and Hill battled various ailments. The injury-riddled offensive line compounds their challenges.

Heading into this pivotal game, the Dolphins confront a long injury list, hoping for returns from sidelined players, while facing a resurgent Bills team that previously trounced them 48-20.

Securing victory on Sunday night would salvage the Dolphins’ season, granting them a home playoff game and the coveted No. 2 seed. A loss, however, would tarnish their once-promising campaign, leaving them empty-handed without a division title or a home playoff game.

The NFL landscape after Week 17 also shows other teams’ standings and their respective performances, reflecting the season’s ups and downs across the league.

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