Episodes 3 through 6
The Miami Dolphins lost all four games in December 2022. Conversely, the franchise won two of three games in December 2023. As the Dolphins’ playoff hopes appear more likely in the passing weeks, I continue to stand by my statement that watching winning teams on HARD KNOCKS is far more engaging than watching a struggling franchise. The underdog story arc is acceptable for the conventional IN TRAINING series, however, the lore of the playoffs and Super Bowl makes IN SEASON appealing. Throughout episodes three, four, five, and six, we see the Dolphins topple the opposition. However, this success is not without its costs, for by the end of NFL week, the 11-4 Dolphins have twenty-five percent of their personnel on the injured list. Linebacker(s) Jerome Baker, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Cameron Goode are all likely out for the postseason. Jaelan Phillips, yet another linebacker, underwent successful Achilles Heel surgery, but will not return until the 2024-2025 season. Although the majority of the damage is on the defensive side, three wide receivers are out due to ankle or hamstring injuries.
While the Fins have a strong record, they are subjected to scrutiny by sports analysts and fans alike. The team has won the majority of its games against teams with sub-.500 records. Likewise, their episode 6 opponent The Dallas Cowboys, boasts a playoff-contingent record that is padded with wins against losing teams. On Christmas Eve in Miami, the Dolphins rallied to beat the Cowboys to improve to 11-4 and clinch a spot in the AFC playoffs. In a ‘gameascloseasthis’, quarterback David “Tua” Tagovailoa led his down team on a 64-yeard drive to set up kicker Jason Sanders for a successful 29-yard field goal. The 22-20 win secured an AFC playoff berth.
Episode 7 and 8
In an interview with CNN Money, then HBO CEO Richard Plepler stated that HBO doesn’t mind people sharing accounts because any viewership is beneficial to the brand. Linebacker Van Ginkel is a self-admitted account sharer. While spending time with his wife, infant son, and toddler, Van Ginkel asks the toddler if he would like to “see daddy on TV”. The gleeful child responds “yes” and he sees his father on HARD KNOCKS. In a hilarious revelation, Van Ginkel admits the MAX account is not his.
In the widest margin of loss since their matchup against the Buffalo Bills on October 1, the Dolphins were steamrolled by AFC Super Bowl favorites The Baltimore Ravens. This beatdown was a reality check for the talented Florida team, for the loss reiterates the hard truth that the Dolphins have not fared well against teams with winning records. Ravens Quarterback Lamar Jackson put on an offensive clinic, which the Dolphins defense could not curtail. Tua Tagovailoa was unable to answer Lamar Jackson’s offensive output and that ultimately cost the Dolphins in Baltimore.
The Dolphins’ loss forces the team in a must-win situation in Week 18 against the Buffalo Bills. They need a victory to hold on to the AFC East title and the No. 2 seed.
This is the most gripping end-of-season speech that I have witnessed on HARD KNOCKS, head coach Mike McDaniel addresses his team after a Week 18 loss to the Buffalo Bills. This is the second loss to the Bills this season. Although the Dolphins are in the playoffs, the team’s see in the playoffs will be decided against the Chiefs. Both teams are 11-6, and both the Chiefs are healthier and have more playoff experience. Tyreek Hill, despite a few mild injuries, has the most receiving yards in the league. His performance will be key in a victory against the defending champs. Entering this 2023 postseason, the Dolphins are looking to win their first playoff game in 23 years. Even with a solid offense and formidable defense, the Dolphins must mind their turnover rate. In the final six games of the regular season, the Dolphins had a +7 turnover margin, tying for second in the league during that time frame. Both teams have their work cut out for themselves, however the betting odds are with the Chiefs.
This season of HARD KNOCKS IN SEASON has been an absolute blast. Along with the usual stellar production and compelling professional/personal storylines, the Dolphins have captivated us with their talent and willpower to play with a quarter of the team on the injured list.