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CBS News Miami's Steve Goldstein: AFC East is there for the taking for Dolphins

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CBS News Miami Live

MIAMI - Following the Dolphins' Black Friday win and a gut-wrenching loss for the Buffalo Bills in overtime, the Dolphins are in charge of the division. They have not won the AFC East in 15 years, but they are in a prime spot entering December to take the crown and earn at least one home game in the playoffs.

The bottom line...nobody foresaw this coming, as things have broken perfectly for the Dolphins. The Bills are .500 and the Jets and Patriots are non-factors.

Mathematically Speaking
Here's the bottom line, if the Dolphins go 4-2 the rest of the way, they win the AFC East, regardless of what Buffalo does. Anything short of that leaves a small opening, but with the Bills at 6-6, there's no reason to think they are going to win out. Simply, Miami has to do the job the next few weeks against teams they should beat, and they will realistically be the champs. Buffalo won the earlier meeting between the teams, and the Dolphins host the Bills in week 18.

How High can they Go
At 8-3, the Dolphins are in the mix with the other division leaders in the AFC. The top seed gets a bye week. All the other teams play the first round of the playoffs at home. So finishing as high as they can in the conference is a big objective for the Fins.

2 in a Row
In both of Mike McDaniel's seasons as Dolphins coach, the team has won 8 of their first 11 games. The last time that happened was 2000-2001.

No Phillips
It was a devastating season ending injury for Jaelan Phillps. He was having a great season and looked poised to dominate even more. Now, Andrew Van Ginkle likely takes his spot, and it means more snaps for Emmanuel Ogbah. Both have been productive and shouod do an admirable job. But it's impossible to replace the raw physical talent of Phillips.

Protect the Ball
In the win over the Jets, the Dolphins turned the ball over top often again. That's ok against the Jets and likely against the next few opponents. But it's time to get things cleaned up. The final three games are against Dallas, Baltimore, and Bufffalo before the playoffs. The multiple turnover games won't fly against those types of teams.

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