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14 posts from December 2016

December 31, 2016

What was 2016's biggest national sports story? Annual year-end poll. Last day to vote!; plus FSU 33, Michigan 32 in an Orange Bowl classic; also, Dolphins-Patriots pick (uh oh), how Marino was ahead of his time & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Newyear Nyeve1) It is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31. Happy New Year's Eve, all! 2) The inventor of the red Solo cup has died. A toast, anyone? 3) Shameless Plug Alert: Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- a perfect late Christmas or Happy New Year gift for every Dolfan you know! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes beat West Virginia in bowl with season-ending CSM poll, your verdict on Dolphins playoff foe, Greg Cote bobblehead & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

FSU survives Michigan, 33-32: They stopped the calling the annual Orange Bowl game the Orange Bowl 'Classic' a while ago. They should have brought the word back just for last night. What a game! Click on An Orange Bowl Classic for my column from the stadium.

Vote for No. 1 Greater Miami/South Florida sports story of 2016 starting Tuesday: That poll will appear in a new, separate blogpost starting Tuesday morning. Watch for it and vote.

YOU PICK THE 2016 NATIONAL SPORTS STORY OF THE YEAR: Welcome to our annual year-ending blog vote. The top 10 stories in this poll are not mine; they are from The Associated Goodbye2016Press official annual ranking for the calendar year. I list them alphabetically here, not in the order of The AP's selection, so as not to prejudice the jury. I want this to be your independent vote and not influenced by The AP's rank. I am purposely not including a synopsis of each story, because if the ballot phrase alone is not sufficient, the story mustn't have been that big or important to you. VOTE FOR YOUR TOP THREE and check back frequently to monitor evolving results. And remember, this is a national list, so please consider your vote in that broad context. I must say I am quite surprised the tragic death of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez did not make the national AP list used for this poll, but be assured that won't be omitted when, beginning Tuesday morning, I invite your vote on my choices for the top Greater Miami/South Florida sports stories of 2016. For now, let's go nationwide. Ready? Decide!

Vote for the top three (3) biggest stories:

FSU 33, MICHIGAN 32 (FINAL): AN ORANGE BOWL THAT FEELS (ALMOST) LIKE A PLAYOFF GAME: Click on An Orange Bowl Classic for my column from the stadium off the game. Original post: Tonight's 83rd Orange Bowl game (8 p.m., Hard Rock Stadium, ESPN) is not a tough sell. Some are. Remember Georgia Tech- ObMississippi State not that long ago? And how did Northern bleepin' Illinois get here!? But tonight we get No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 Florida State in a matchup that has (almost) the national heft of a College Football Playoff semifinal, and the local interest to match. It's Jim Harbaugh vs. Jimbo Fisher. It's Dalvin Cook vs. Jabrill Peppers. It's FSU's big offense vs. Michigan's really good defense. I also love this contrast: the host city knows one team very well and the other hardly at all. We see the Seminoles, the Miami Hurricanes' chief ACC rivals, all the time. So many of their players including Cook (Miami Central) are local guys. This will be Florida State's 10th OB appearance, third most of any school. Michigan, though, is a far-flung mystery. The Canes have played the other U-M since the '80s, and the Wolverines' most recent of only two OB appearance was following the 1999 season. Their quarterback then was some guy named Tom Brady, who'll be back in the same building Sunday pitching for the Patriots vs. the Dolphins. Click on A Matchup Worthy of OB Tradition to read my column previewing tonight's big game.

IT'S UPSET BIRD DAY / WEEK 17: OUR PICKS FOR DOLPHINS-PATRIOTS, REST OF NFL: Sixteen games, all Sunday, all division rivalries, with the final two of 12 playoff spots to be determined. FripixSounds like a big Week 17 for King Sport. We enter the regular-season finale a big 34 games over .500 against the spread in our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald -- one of our best years ever. Click on Week 17 Gems as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our latest predictions for Dolphins-Patriots, our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week and every other contest. (Grinch Cote has picked playoff-bound Miami to lose each of the past two games and been wrong both times, as many kind readers have pointed out. Well, I'm picking Miami to lose yet again. You're welcome!). We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column that today leads with an ode to Dan Marino's ahead-of-his-time greatness as the Dolphins prepare to honor him on Sunday. Click on Marino Led NFL Arms Race to read.

Other select recent columns: Road Back Starts With Bowl Win, on why the Hurricanes ending their bowl victory drought was so important. The Gift Of Winning, on Dolphins rewarding fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: Missing Dwyane Wade, Football Town Strikes Back.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 30, 2016

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 97.2% (Final). Record set for highest season-ending approval rating; plus UM ends 10-year bowl win drought, finishes 9-4, awaits Kaaya decision; also, Greg Cote bobblehead, your word on Dolphins' preferred playoff foe & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29. I'm back up at Friday Page World Headquarters begging my regular-season-ending NFL picks. Make me smart for a day, Lord. 2) R.I.P. Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, mother dying one day after her daughter. Surreal. 3) Shameless Plug Alert: Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- a perfect late Christmas gift for any Dolfan you know! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins preferred-playoff-opponent poll, The List & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

MebobbleMe, bobblehead: One of the least-expected, most bizarre and therefore best gifts I got for Christmas this year was a Greg Cote Bobblehead my wonderfully strange wife had made. It is pictured. It looks like me ... if I were younger, slimmer, better-looking and had more hair. Which makes it perfect!  

Hurricanes: The road 'back' must start with a bowl win: UM was 0-6 in bowl games since winning its last in 2006, before last night's 31-14 Russell Athletic Bowl victory over West Virginia. Click on Road Back Starts With Bowl Win to read my latest column. Select recent other columns: The Gift Of Winning, on Dolphins rewarding their fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: Missing Dwyane Wade, Football Town Strikes Back.

Canes in-game blog, postgame thoughts: Find our live in-game blog and postgame thoughts from tonight directly below the latest, season-final Canesfan Satisfaction Meter poll.

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: 97.2% (SEASON FINAL): Results are certified in the latest and 2016 season final Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 97.2 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Wednesday's Csm31-14 victory vs. West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando putting the Hurricanes' final season record at 9-4 and ending UM's 10-year, six-game bowl victory drought. This wraps up the eighth season of our blog's CSM postgame polls, which are your invitation after every Hurricanes football game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, the season as a whole, the program's direction and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Because this was our last 2016 DSM poll we suggested you place special emphasis on the season as a whole. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was be around 9 a.m. today/Friday. Thanks to the thousands who participated in our 2016 CSM polls and we'll see you again next season!

2016 Canesfan Satisfaction Meter

G1: 97.2% following 70-3 victory vs. Florida A&M

G2: 91.9% following 38-10 victory vs. Florida Atlantic

G3: 98.2% following 45-10 victory at Appalachian State

G4: 97.9% following 35-21 victory at Georgia Tech

G5: 58.3% following 20-19 loss vs. Florida State

G6: 24.0% following 20-13 loss vs. North Carolina

G7: 20.3% following 37-16 loss at Virginia Tech

G8: 16.0% following 30-27 loss at Notre Dame

G9: 76.6% following 51-28 victory vs. Pitt

G10: 82.0% following 34-14 victory at Virginia

G11: 92.9% following 27-13 victory at North Carolina State

G12: 95.9% following 40-21 victory vs. Duke

Bowl/Final: 97.2% following 31-24 victory vs. West Virginia

CSM year-by-year final season results: 2016--97.2% (following 9-4 season); 2015--20.1% (8-5); 2014--2.7% (6-7); 2013--16.1% (9-4); 2012--80.9% (7-5); 2011--22.1% (6-6); 2010--4.2% (7-6); 2009--41.7% (9-4).

BOWL: HURRICANES 31, WEST VIRGINIA 14: ALL ABOUT ENDINGS TONIGHT AS MIAMI SEES ITS BOWL DROUGHT END, NOW HOPES THE KAAYA ERA DOESN'T: Postgame thoughts: Miami's first bowl win since 2006 after an 0-6 stretch tonight was sweet partly because it began so badly. West Virginia jumped out front and Brad Kaaya and the UM offense were horrible. But UM's defense kept being really good as Kaaya found his game and got hot, finishing with 282 yards and four TD passes. The result put a bow on a 9-4 season, Mark Richt's first here, that should be good enough to see Miami ranked in the final, post-bowl Top 25 poll. Now, though, UM awaits Kaaya's stay-or-go decision, which is expected by the weekend. To ESPN Radio he said, "I don't have an answer yet. I have to do some soul searching." It's a close call. I think he should stay. We'll know soon ..... 4Q: Another fourth-down stop for Canes. Almost time to start counting the win ..... 3Q: Big fourth-down stop for UM defense. Such a momentum shift since that first quarter ... The U's lead now 31-14 on 30-yard FG ... WVU within 28-14 on 4-yard Howard run ... Miami 28-7 now on Kaaya 23-yard TD toss to Njoku. Kaaya has been fantastic since his slow opening quarter ..... Halftime thoughts: Rarely have I seen a team, an offense, a quarterback, go from an awful first quirter to a dominant second like the Canes have tonight. Wow. ..... 2Q: Berrios 26-yard scoring pass from Kaaya for 21-7 just before half. Kaaya awful in 1Q, sublime in second ... Canes 14-7 now late in half on Kaaya 3-yard flip to Lewis. Big turnaround for Miami offense ... Boom! Just like that. It's 7-7 on Kaaya's pass that Ahmmon Richards turns into 51-yard scoring play ... The blessing in disguise for UM at 7-0 down? The Kaaya we are seeing tonight is not NFL-ready, and the NFL is watching ... Fortunate. Penalty wipes out Kaaya interception ... Bettors on the "under" are feeling good early, with the o/u around 56 at kickoff ..... 1Q: Miami doing nada offensively in first Q ... WVU 7-0 on McKoy 6-yard TD run. Mountaineers ranked with a better record but underdogs here -- that's big incentive ... UM's Norton big fumble recovery on opening series; WVU was on the move in Canes territory. Alas, Miami soon punts ... Seemed start of game might be picked up late by ESPN because Pitt-Northwestern ran long, but timing turned out perfect ..... Original post: One month and two days since ending its regular season at 8-4 with four straight wins, Miami will see if that momentum carries over this evening vs. Umwvu10-2 West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, in an ESPN broadcast with the odd starting time of 5:30 p.m. UM is playing the highest-ranked opponent (Mountaineers are No. 16) of any unranked team, yet WVU is a 3 1/2-point betting underdog despite its ranking and better record. Perhaps because UM leads the all-time series, 16-3. Miami likely would finish ranked in the low Top 25 in the final post-bowl Bradkaayapolls with a win to complete Mark Richt's first season. As important, UM seeks an end to an 0-6 bowl run in a drought dating to 2006 -- the predominant theme from a Canes vantage in the buildup to this game. (Click on Road Back Starts With Bowl Win for my column previewing tonight's game). Of course, the biggest result to come from this game -- bigger than a win or loss, at least to me -- will be quarterback Brad Kaaya's decision on whether to return for his senior season or enter the NFL Draft. It's pretty much assumed tight end David Njoku will turn pro [update: he did]. Many think Kaaya (pictured) will, too, although I am unconvinced. With no consensus that he'd be a first-round pick, I think Brad would be smart to return to UM, and I think he still might. Seventeen UM seniors will be playing their last game for The U, Corn Elder, Stacy Coley and ironman lineman Danny Isidora most notable among them. As for the game itself, the result will turn on how Kaaya handles a very aggressive West Virginia defense that loves to blitz. Mountaineers forced 25 opponent turnovers this season including a nation-leading (tied) eight interceptions by cornerback Rasul Douglas. I see Kaaya as experienced enough to beat the blitz, this defense and this Big 12 opponent. By the way, if Kaaya goes nuts he'll have an outside shot to challenge Bernie Kosar's 32-year-old UM season record of 3,642 passing yards. Kaaya would need 393 today to break that long-standing mark. My pick: Hurricanes, 31-23.

Poll result: Dolfans hoping for the easier game in Houston: We asked which of two possible opponents you'd rather see the Dolphins face to open the playoffs, and overwhelmingly you picked the easier foe over the sexier game, with Houston Texans drubbing Pittsburgh Steelers by 59.7 percent to 15.2%. The other 25.1% voted, "Either. It's the playoffs!" 

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 28, 2016

Would you rather see Dolphins face Pittsburgh or Houston in playoff opener? New poll. Vote now!; plus Hurricanes bowl column, The List & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 28. I'll be back on-air next Tuesday when the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz returns from vacation. 2) Shameless Plug Alert: Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- a perfect late Christmas gift for any Dolfan you know! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins make playoffs, Fins defeat Buffalo with DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10, annual Christmas video, R.I.P. George Michael, your Hassan Whiteside verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Canes: The road 'back' starts with a bowl win: UM is 0-6 in bowl games since winning its last in 2006. That's why this evening's Russell Athletic Bowl vs. West Virginia in Orlando is big for The U. Click on Road Back Starts With Bowl Win to read my new column. We'll preview the game in a separate, new blogpost; watch for it later today.

Select recent columns: Haven't been as many lately, due to vacation time. The Gift Of Winning, on the Dolphins rewarding their fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: The Handoff Nobody Wanted. Missing Dwyane Wade. Football Town Strikes Back.

Xmas16LATE GIFT, ICYMI: OUR ANNUAL CHRISTMAS VIDEO FROM ME TO YOU: This year's Christmas video was taken on a sledding trip that included myself, Dan LeBatard, Cam Wake, Pat Riley and Santa Claus. What a great time we five guys had! A picture from our trip is shown at left. To watch the brief video, click HERE.

WHO'D YOU RATHER SEE DOLPHINS FACE IN PLAYOFF OPENER?: You know by now that Miami, finally over its eight-year playoff drought, will open the postseason Jan. 7 or Nflpos8 likely as the AFC's No. 6 seed playing at Pittsburgh. Miami would have a more favorable matchup as the No. 5 seed at Houston only if Dolphins beat New England this coming week and the Chiefs lose at San Diego -- seemingly an unlikely combination. I'm curious which team you'd rather the Dolphins open the playoffs against. It might seem a no-brainer, since the Steelers are pretty clearly a better team than the Texans. However, Miami beat Pittsburgh pretty easily this year (30-15) in the game that began the winning streak that saved the season. Houston would be a bit more of an unknown opponent, comparatively. Pittsburgh would likely be a more entertaining game. Houston would mean a rematch vs. ex-Fin Lamar Miller. Or maybe you don't have a preference. Only one way to find out. Take a dip in our poll.

THE LIST: DOLPHINS PLAYOFF HISTORY VS. PITTSBURGH AND HOUSTON: Miami has faced Pittsburgh three times in the postseason and Houston (when they were the Oilers) once. The results:
 
Season    Opponent               Result
1972       @ Pittsburgh           Dolphins, 21-17
1978       vs. Houston Oilers   Houston, 17-9
1979       @ Pittsburgh           Pittsburgh, 34-14
1984       vs. Pittsburgh          Dolphins, 45-28 
 
Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 26, 2016

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 98.3% (season-high for playoff-bound Dolphins); plus Fins win at Buffalo, end 8-year postseason drought; also, our annual Christmas video from me to you, the new Hot Button Top 10 (updated), George Michael & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Mc1) It is MONDAY, DECEMBER 26. R.I.P., singer George Michael. Never a huge fan, honestly, but respect his artistry and imprint on pop music. Loved his live duet on Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" (video at bottom of this post). 2) Hope my fellow Christians had a wonderful and Merry Christmas! Shameless Plug Alert: Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- a perfect late gift for any Dolfan on your list! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Week 16 picks, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (30 games), Heat honor Shaq with Whiteside poll, your players-skipping-bowls verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Xmas16OUR ANNUAL CHRISTMAS VIDEO, FROM ME TO YOU: This year's Christmas video was taken on a sledding trip that included myself, Dan LeBatard, Cam Wake, Pat Riley and Santa Claus. What a great time we five guys had! A picture from our trip is shown at left. To watch the brief video, click HERE.

Select recent columns: Haven't been as many lately, due to vacation time. Week 16 Gems, our latest NFL picks. Quit Rewarding Teams That Win Bad Divisions, our latest NFL notes column. The Gift Of Winning, on the Dolphins rewarding their fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: The Handoff Nobody Wanted. Just Make the Damned Playoffs For a Change. Missing Dwyane Wade. Football Town Strikes Back.

DOLPHINS IN PLAYOFFS, EARLY PROJECTION ON BETTING ODDS!: No, seriously. Miami is in the postseason. Fins likely will open the postseason Jan. 7 or 8 as the No. 6 seed at Pittsburgh. Miami would have a more favorable matchup as No. 5 seed at Houston only if Dolphins beat New England this coming week and the Chiefs lose at San Diego. A friend of mine in the business of setting betting lines early-estimates that Miami would be around a 6-8 point underdog at Pittsburgh but that a game at Houston would be close to even with perhaps the Dolphins opening as very slight favorites.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: 98.3%: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show a season-high 98.3 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Saturday's 34-31 overtime win at Buffalo putting DsmMiami's season record at 10-5 and helping qualify for the playoffs. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 8:45 a.m. today/Monday.

2016 DSM results

G1: 52.5% (following 12-10 loss at Seattle)

G2: 13.3% (following 31-24 loss at New England)

G3: 9.9% (following 30-24 OT victory vs. Cleveland)

G4: 3.0% (following 22-7 loss at Cincinnati)

G5: 3.2% (following 30-17 loss vs. Tennessee)

G6: 67.4% (following 30-15 victory vs. Pittsburgh)

G7: 90.9% (following 28-25 victory vs. Buffalo)

G8: 94.0% (following 27-23 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G9: 96.8% (following 31-24 victory at San Diego)

G10: 95.7% (following 14-10 victory at Los Angeles)

G11: 95.9% (following 31-24 victory vs. San Francisco)

G12: 34.8% (following 38-6 loss at Baltimore)

G13: 93.2% (following 26-23 victory vs. Arizona)

G14: 98.0% (following 34-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

G15: 98.3% (following 34-31 OT victory at Buffalo)

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins win in Buffalo, clinch playoffs Sunday: Well, Dolfans sure got what they wanted for Christmas. Miami in the playoffs. Feels weird, right? The Dolphins' 34-31 overtime victory at Buffalo Saturday and then Denver's loss Sunday night puts Fins in postseason for first time since 2008. There is a Santa Claus! There is a Santa Claus!

2. HURRICANES: Canes try to end long bowl drought this week: The Dolphins' playoff drought (now ending) gets all the attention, but UM is on an 0-6 bowl run dating to 2006. That's four coaches ago. And that is why Wednesday's game vs. West Virginia in Orlando matters so much to this UM program.

3. ORANGE BOWL: Michigan, Florida State tee it up Friday: Miami isn't hosting a College Football Playoff game this year (the semifinals are in six days), but the OB gets the next-best thing in No. 6 Michigan and No. 11 Florida State, two top-tier teams that began the season with national-championship hopes.

4. PANTHERS: Ageless Jagr vaults to second in NHL career points: Cats are a disappointing 15-20 and skating off playoff pace so far, but holiday cheer visited as Jaromir Jagr scored his 1,888th career point to move into second all-time behind only some guy named Wayne Gretzky. Even more impressive: Jagr turns 45 in February.

5. HEAT: Miami retires Shaquille O'Neal's jersey: Heat fans celebrated the Miami career of Shaq and recalled the 2006 NBA title he helped win as the franchise retired his No. 32. With the current Heat team mired with a record of 10-21 and hosting Oklahoma City Tuesday, celebrating anything felt good.

6. NFL: Chase for final playoff spots dominates league storyline: The Cleveland Browns won! The Cleveland Browns won! But the playoff picture is the big news, of course. Entering tonight's game 10 of the 12 playoff spots have been locked down, including the Dolphins, with the Lions and Packers frontrunners for the final two.

7. CHRISTMAS: Jesus! Sports have taken over holiday: To Christians, yesterday was first and foremost a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. To others, it was a day to open gifts and watch five NBA games and two NFL games in a nonstop, noon-to-midnight banquet of sports.

8. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women prepare for No. 7 FSU: UM's men (9-2 but unranked) are having a nice seasons. But the Canes' women are better so far, 11-1, ranked NO. 11 and hosting No. 7 Florida State this coming Thursday.

9. GOLF: Tiger, Trump play a round: President-elect Donald Trump and Tiger Woods (wearing a white billygoat goatee) played golf Friday at Trump's course in West Palm Beach. No word on who won. But if Woods won, I wonder if trump thought the result was rigged?

10. UFC: Rousey prepares for comeback: Ronda Rousey make her comeback this coming Friday by headlining UFC 207 in Las Vegas. Question, though: If you've barely been gone long enough to be missed ... is it really a comeback?

Missing the HB10 cut: Hurricanes left seven behind on the bowl trip to Orlando for not meeting program standards. Notable are Gerald Willis, a D-line contributor, and Micheal Irvin Jr. The capacity of college athletes to do something dumb never ceases to amaze ..... Baseball Hall of Fame ballots are due this week. Mine's already in. I voted for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but I doubt again there were enough like me ..... Thank you, Mike Krzyzewski, for indefinitely suspending spoiled brat Grayson Allen for intentionally and repeatedly tripping opponents. Dear Grayson: America hates you ..... Defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cam Wake were the Dolphins' only Pro Bowl choices. Some thought Jarvis Landry got snubbed. Um, he has three TD catches, not a Pro Bowl number ..... A developmental spring league unaffiliated with the NFL is to launch in April 2017 and, other than unemployed NFL free agents, nobody cares ..... Floyd Mayweather said he'd "slap the s---" out of Conor McGregor. America responded it would like to "slap the s---" out of Floyd Mayweather.

G15: DOLPHINS 34, BUFFALO 31 (FINAL/OT): HUGE ROAD WIN HAS MIAMI THISCLOSE TO PLAYOFFS!: Final thoughts: Miami's defense allowed 589 yards and twice blew 14-point leads but all that matters is a 34-31 win at Buffalo, a 10-5 record, and the driver's seat to end an eight-year playoff drought. Miami needs a loss by Denver Sunday night or a win vs. New England next week in Miami for its first postseason since 2008. Jay Ajayi's 206 yards on 32 carries lifted and carried Miami all day -- his third 200-yard game of the season .....  OT: Franks 27-yard FG wins it for MIA 34-31! ... BUF timeout as Miami set to try game-winning 27-yard FG with 51 seconds ... Ajayi has third 200-yard game of year, leaves game with banged up shoulder ... Ajayi 57-yard run (giving him almost 200 for day) has Dolphins in position for game-winning FG! ... Miami  forces Bills punt. With 4 minutes left, a no-decision tie game is a looming possibility ... Dolphins punting. Punting in OT is seldom a good thing, although Miami downs it at BUF 4 ... Still tied as BUF's Carpenter misses 45-yard FG try. What luck for Miami! ... Bison win coin toss and on the move. Uh oh ..... 4Q: Oh man. Franks career-long 55-yasrd FG ties it 31-31 with six seconds left, forces overtime ..... Wow. Buffalo take first lead at 31-28 with 1:20 left on Taylor 7-yard TD pass to ex-Fin Clay ... Bills trick-play completion to Woods off lateral back to QB ... Defense stiffens, holds BUF to 28-yard FG and it's now 28-24 ... Oh my. Twelve men on defense gives BUF first down on 4th and 1 play ... Franks 46-yard FG try bounces off goalpost no good ... 3Q: Turning into a shootout. BUF within 28-21 on Taylor 18-yard TD pass to ex-Fin Charles Clay ... Damien Williams 44-yard catch and run for Fins sets up 6-yard Moore to Stills TD pass; MIA up 28-14 ... BUF within 21-14 on McCoy 19-yard TD run ... Miami 21-7 on Moore 56-yard TD pass to Parker. I said they'd need more from Moore in second half. Done! ..... Halftime thoughts: Miami with nervous 14-7 lead. Will need more from Matt Moore in second half. He's 5-for-14 for 57 yards with one pick, a 19.0 passer rating. Bills outgaining Miami in total yards 212-183 ..... 2Q: Momentum swinging to Bills late in half as Moore intercepted in end zone ... BUF within 14-7 on gorgeous 38-yard scoring pass into end zone and Watkins' hands ... Big 4th and 1 defensive stop for Miami. All Fins so far ... Bills fans in a booing mood. Can you blame 'em? ... Drake busts 45-yard scoring for for 14-0 MIA lead. Play was bottled up to left; Drake reversed field and was untouched along sideline ..... 1Q: Dolfans thanking ex-Fin Carpenter as he pushes 46-yard FG try wide ... So dumb! Bills delay of game on 3rd and 5 at edge of FG range ... Good sign: Ajayi 43 yards, 6.1 per in first quarter ... MIA 7-0 on Ajayi 2-yard run ... Dolphins 3-and-out on their first series, too ... Miami opens with defensive 3-and-out ..... Original post: Maybe it's that the Dolphins are missing their starting quarterback and last week's big game by backup Matt Moore didn't convince everybody. Maybe it's that people can't imagine that a team from Miami (d.b.a "South Beach") won't wither and shrink in today's Buffalo weather -- temps in the 30s with a Miabufchance of sleety rain for the 1 p.m. kickoff. Or maybe it's simply that, despite the Fins superior record (9-5 to 7-7), folks just think the Bills are better. Whatever the reason, Buffalo opened as a 3 1/2-point betting favorite and that jacked up to today's 4 1/2 as money poured in on the Bills. The point is, the proving continues for Miami as it endeavors to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. It could happen this Christmas Weekend. It isn't complicated: Miami ends its eight-season playoff drought if it beats the Bills today and if Denver loses Christmas night in Kansas City. But if Miami loses today, or if the Broncos win Sunday, it will come down to the final week of the season for the Fins' postseason fate to be known. The first part of the equation -- beating the Bills --  won’t be easy. The Dolphins haven’t won in Buffalo since 2011, freezing rain is forecast, and the Bills — with only infinitesimal, barely breathing playoff hopes — are in a classic spoiler’s role vs. their AFC East rivals. Fins beat Buffs 28-25 in Miami on Oct. 23 as Bison blew an 11-point lead entering fourth quarter. Jay Ajayi galloped for 214 yards that day but has only 205 yards in his past four games combined. LeSean McCoy is the hottest runner entering this game. Tyrod Taylor could be a handful, too. He has a 122.8 rating his past three games vs. MIA and leads all QBs with 520 yards rushing this season. I respect the 8-1 run Miami is on that has made playoff hopes real, but I consider Buffalo to be just as good and think the home-field edge in this weather will be large. Also, Moore will be facing a much better pass defense than the Jets’ version he scalpeled last week. Sorry, Dolfans, but Grinch Cote says no playoff-clinch this week. My pick: Buffalo, 23-20.

Poll result: Most see Whiteside as a Heat keeper, but many do not: Pat Riley says he'll "rebuild quick." We asked if you think Hassan Whiteside will be a centerpiece of the rebuild or be traded away, and it was 59.3 percent centerpiece and 40.7% traded away.

 
Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 23, 2016

Dolphins-Bills, other NFL Week 16 picks; plus "The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings" (30 games); also Whiteside poll as Heat honors Shaq (last day to vote!), your players-skipping-bowls verdict & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- perfect for any Dolfan on your list and just in time for the holidays! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): My baseball Hall of fame ballot, Dolphins and Pro Bowl, college-players-skipping-bowl-games poll, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy Week 15 results & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Select recent columns: Haven't been as many lately, due to vacation time. The Gift Of Winning, the latest, on the Dolphins gifting their fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: The Handoff Nobody Wanted. Just Make the Damned Playoffs For a Change. Missing Dwyane Wade. Football Town Strikes Back.

IT'S UPSET BIRD DAY / WEEK 16: OUR PICKS FOR DOLPHINS-BILLS, REST OF NFLThe full launch of our Week 16 comes after a stumbling start last night as we thought the Giants would win Fripix
Grinchand cover at Eagles and we were double-wrong. Disappointing pick, because I'd had a gut feeling for Philly and reasoned myself out of it. Still, we enter the week a very solid 30 games over .500 against the spread in our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald -- one of our best years ever. Click on Week 16 Gems as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our latest predictions for Dolphins-Bills, our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week and every other contest. (Sorry, Dolfans, but Grinch Cote does not think the Dolphins will come out of Buffalo with their playoff spot secured). We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column that today leads with the playoff picture and a call for the NFL to start rewarding teams with the best records regardless of divisions. Click on Quit Rewarding Teams That Win Bad Divisions to read.

UPDATED: "THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS" (30 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and introduce a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 10-20 after last night's comeback win over the L.A. Lakers on Shaq Night, here's The Luddite's sixth installment, with 25-game rank in parentheses:

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (30 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)       1,010

2. Goran Dragic (2)             747

3. Tyler Johnson (3)            595

4. James Johnson (4)          464

5. Dion Waiters (5)              346

6. Josh Richardson (7)         314

7. Rodney McGruder (6)       297

8. Justise Winslow (8)         281

9. Josh McRoberts (9)          225

10. Wayne Ellington (10)     187

Others: Willie Reed 168, Derrick Williams 157, Luke Babbitt 136, Udonis Haslem 17.

AS HEAT HONORS SHAQ, WHAT'S THE CONFIDENCE IN WHITESIDE AS CLUB'S NEXT GREAT BIG MAN?: The Heat raised Shaquille O'Neal's No. 32 jersey to the rafters last night during the home win vs. (not coincidentally) the Lakers -- Shaq joining only Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway in that exclusive pantheon, although it awaits Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, and also ShaqhassanLeBron James, if Pat Riley swallows his pride on that. The honor for Shaq is more debatable than clear-cut. The case for: Shaq arrived to give the franchise national heft and helped Miami win its first NBA title in 2006. The case against: Did Shaq really play long enough here -- 3 1/2 seasons -- to merit a retired number? Consider the slice of his career pie Miami had of Shaq: 16.98% of his games played, 14.02% of his points scored, and 14.17% of his rebounds. So his NBA career was about 1/6th or 1/7th Miami. You weighed in last month in a poll here asking what you thought of Miami retiring his number, and it was 60.6 percent no vs. 39.4% yes. Close, but sorry, Big Fella. The timing of last night's ceremony is what interested me. Shaq used to complain about not getting the ball enough as Wade's star ascended. Shaq left here on bad terms, this ceremony coming as an olive branch. Now, in Hassan Whiteside, the Heat has another center who must be coddled to a degree. Just this week, Whiteside complained, Shaq-like, about needing more touches of the ball. "I understand his frustration," Riley said Wednesday. "There's a lot of pressure on him. He feels the pressure and welcome to the big leagues. Welcome to the big time." Miami is giving Whiteside max money and he is delivering, leading the NBA by averaging 14.8 rebounds, among leaders at 2.41 blocks, and second on the team in scoring at 18.1 points. But Miami is 10-20. This isn't working. Riley said this week he will be "rebuild quick" and many wonder if Whiteside will be a cornerstone of that rebuilding, or traded as a part of it. Is he untouchable? Should he be? Take a dip in our poll and weigh in on what you think the future holds for Hassan Whiteside.

Poll result: Debatable, but more disagree with players skipping bowl games: We asked what best expresses how you feel about star college football players skipping their teams' bowl games, and it was 47.4 percent oppose/selfish, 33.9% support/smart, and 18.7% undecided/mixed feelings.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 21, 2016

The 4 Dolphins who may yet join Wake, Suh in Pro Bowl; plus my 2016 baseball Hall of Fame ballot revaled, college football players skipping bowl games (with poll), NFL Pix 'n Fantasy Week 15 results & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 21. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- perfect for any Dolfan on your list and just in time for the holidays! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins rout Jets with DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10, Panthers president joins Army & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Select recent columns: Haven't been as many lately, due to vacation time. The Gift Of Winning, the latest, on the Dolphins gifting their fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: The Handoff Nobody Wanted. Just Make the Damned Playoffs For a Change. Missing Dwyane Wade. Football Town Strikes Back. Surreal At 200 MPH. Doctor Speed.

WakesuhON PRO BOWL DOLPHINS, SO-CALLED SNUBS AND WHO MIGHT STILL MAKE IT: Defensive end Cam Wake and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh were elected to the Pro Bowl from Miami -- the only Fins so honored, both deserving, and neither a surprise. This is the real 44-man AFC and NFC PB roster. It will change. Several selected players will drop out and be replaced, but replacement guys always have that asterisk attached. They are the sort-of Pro Bowl'ers. The annual media chewing-over of so-called Pro Bowl "snubs" keeps mentioning Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry (who made it last year) and running back Jay Ajayi, but the case for both is modest. Landry's 82 catches for 1,031 yards are top-five in the AFC but he has only three TD catches. Tough to claim Pro Bowl impact with three TDs. Ajayi's 1,007 yards rank sixth in the AFC, and he was the catalyst for the win streak that saved the season. Landry and Ajayi both should be among eventual replacement Pro Bowl guys. Two other possibilities as add-ons for Miami: Linebacker Kiko Alonso, of the 103 tackles and four fumble  recoveries, and cornerback Byron Maxwell, of the four forced fumbles, two picks and team-leading 15 passes defensed. Both have had productive seasons.

HERE'S MY 2016 BASEBALL HALL OF FAME BALLOT: Transparency is all the rage. Eventually the Hall of Fame, the Baseball Writers Association of America and other outlets will publish Mebbwaaeveryone's ballots, but here, for the first time, you can see mine. It's due by Dec. 31; mine will be in the mail (the BBWAA still does it old-school) today. This is my third year as a proud and diligent voter who takes the honor seriously. I could vote for up to 10 former players and I took full advantage. My 10, alphabetically: Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield. Guerrero, Ramirez and Rodriguez were ballot "rookies," first-year eligibles, who got my vote. Raines was a bit of a sentimental nod; he's on his final try and I hope he makes it. Martinez was a close call. Sheffield probably has no shot but what the hell. Close misses for me included Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina. As for my including some "steroid guys," I no longer think that taint should be a lifetime sentence when it comes to exceptional cases (such as Bonds and Clemens) whose enormous careers were hardly reliant on PEDs. But I will continue to push for Cooperstown to include on its bronze plaques the warts and all -- including the cloud of PEDs and other extenuating circumstances that affected a former player's eventual election. Which reminds me: If Pete Rose were on the ballot, I'd have voted for him. And if there was a write-in space, I'd have written his name.

COLLEGE PLAYERS (AND COACHES) SHOULD FEEL OBLIGATION TO PARTICIPATE IN BOWL GAMES: Star running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and Leonard Fournette of LSU (pictured) have decided Skippersto not play in their teams' bowl games to prepare for the NFL Draft -- and are being widely applauded in the media. Ths is almost certain to become an annual trend that seriously weakens the bowls and college football's postseason. There is no preparation for the draft, of course. Don't have your picture taken wearing a gas-mask bong. There. That's your preparation. By prepare, these players mean avoid the risk of injury that might cost them draft stock and money. Even though the risk of injury is very small. Even though players live with that risk all the time and don't cower from it -- except when convenient to them. Do I blame these players for skipping their bowl games? Yes. It is selfish. They are putting themselves above their team. Their college season includes their bowl game. If you are healthy, you should play. [Update: Canes coach Mark Richt agrees with me. Yesterday he said, of players skipping bowls: "I think it's sad, personally. Until the season is over, you should be with your team." Fournette and McCaffrey are skipping the Citrus and Sun bowls, respectively. But what if it was Alabama's star players following suit and jeopardizing their team's national-championship chances. Would that be different? I don't just blame players. Coaches (and assistants) who take different jobs should fulfill their bowl obligations before leaving, such as Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who already has bolted for FAU. Am I wrong? Tell me in this poll.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY WEEK 15 RESULTS: ROCKY WEEK FOR PREDIX, LOBOS IN THIRD-PLACE GAME: Every week in the blog I update you on how we did, for better or worse, the previous weekend with our NFL predictions and LeBatard Show fantasy team. NFL pix: Tough go. Went 10-6 straight-up (not terrible) but a rough 6-9-1 against the spread, with the tie a 3-pooinjt push by Oakland. We're still a very strong 30 games above .500 ATS for the season. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos went to 11-4 by beating Roy and will now face Sarah Spain for third-pace, while the radio show's championship game will be a heavyweight bout: Dan vs. Stugotz. Meanwhile the Lobos will name our MVL -- Most Valuable Lobo -- next week. Might have a poll and let you all decide who should wear the crown. #WeAreTheLobos
 
Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 19, 2016

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 98.0% (season high); plus Miami routs Jets 34-13 behind Moore, strong D; also, Vincent Viola, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, DECEMBER 19. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- perfect for any Dolfan on your list and just in time for the holidays! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Week 15 picks, Loria's asking price, disrespecting Hurricanes' football talent, your Davis vs. Kiffin verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Happy holidays from the Dolphins!: After a brutal recent past, the Dolphins finally are giving their fans the gift of a nice present. Click on The Gift Of Winning to read my new column.

Select recent columns: We haven't had as many lately due to vacation. A few: Week 15 Gems, our latest NFL picks. Death, Taxes and No Playoffs For Buffalo, our NFL notes column. Also: The Handoff Nobody Wanted. Just Make the Damned Playoffs For a Change. Missing Dwyane Wade. Football Town Strikes Back. Surreal At 200 MPH. Doctor Speed.

Panthers owner nominated for military post: Panthers owner Vincent Viola has been nominated to be secretary of the Army. Who knew there was a secretary of the Army? Viola is a 1977 West Point graduate. Ownership will remain with the Viola family. Current club vice chairman Doug Cifu will become chairman if Viola is confirmed.

What Donald Trump and Hassan Whiteside have in common: After watching and listening Thursday night to Whiteside's Instagram video (snakes in the grass) -- since deleted -- I have come to the conclusion that the Heat center may now trail only Trump in the category of prominent people whose obsession with social media serves them most poorly.  

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G14: 98.0%: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 98.0 percent approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Saturday night's 34-13 victory at the New York Jets putting DsmMiami's season record at 9-5. That's a season high. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 10 a.m. today/Monday.

2016 DSM results

G1: 52.5% (following 12-10 loss at Seattle)

G2: 13.3% (following 31-24 loss at New England)

G3: 9.9% (following 30-24 OT victory vs. Cleveland)

G4: 3.0% (following 22-7 loss at Cincinnati)

G5: 3.2% (following 30-17 loss vs. Tennessee)

G6: 67.4% (following 30-15 victory vs. Pittsburgh)

G7: 90.9% (following 28-25 victory vs. Buffalo)

G8: 94.0% (following 27-23 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G9: 96.8% (following 31-24 victory at San Diego)

G10: 95.7% (following 14-10 victory at Los Angeles)

G11: 95.9% (following 31-24 victory vs. San Francisco)

G12: 34.8% (following 38-6 loss at Baltimore)

G13: 93.2% (following 26-23 victory vs. Arizona)

G14: 98.0% (following 34-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

Next poll: Dec. 24 (following game at Buffalo)

G14: DOLPHINS @ N.Y. JETS: PLAYOFF STAKES HIGH AS MIAMI MAKES PRIME-TIME HISTORY: Postgame thoughts: Well, I totally blew it with my pick. I mean totally. Moore was great (12-18, 236, 4 TDs, 126 rating) and the Wake- and Suh-led defense was even better.  Miami has regained the golden No. 6 playoff seed, at least temporarily, entering Sunday's games ..... 4Q: Lippett INT in end zone ends it ... NYJ within 34-13 on meaningless FG ... Are we starting a quarterback controversy? We're not. Right? ..... 3Q: Miami 34-10 on 66-yard Landry TD play, Moore's fourth TD pass ... Dolphins a commanding 27-10 lead after Moore's third TD pass, a 1-yard flip to Sims ... Lippett interception for Miami. All Fins right now ... MIA 20-10 on Aikens blocked-punt TD, a huge special-teams play that has Dolfans feeling pretty good for first time tonight ... Uh oh. Moore interception to open second half ... Nervous game, right? One big play gonna swing it? ..... Halftime thoughts: Moore has been pretty great and defense has been pretty great at 13-10, Miami, at half. Game totally teetering, but a mildly optimistic first half for Miami ..... 2Q: NYJ within 13-10 just before half on 48-yard FG ... Dolphins 13-7 on Moore 52-yard strike to Stills. Moore can throw that deep ball. And Stills, every third or fourth game, looks like a star ... Big 4th-and-1 defensive stop for MIA. Game teetering ... Wake interception aborts Jets drive. Wake. INT! Seriously, this guy is having a Pro Bowl year ... MIA within 7-6 on Moore-Sims 1-yard TD pass, but then as missed extra point kick ... Dolphins need to make a big play that retakes this game ..... 1Q: Huge. Wake strip-sack and Suh fumble recovery as Jets threaten in Fins red zone ... Oy. NYJ a fast 7-0 on Petty-Anderson 40-yard scoring pass. Not the start you wanted, Dolfans ..... Original post: For me, Dolphins-Jets might be the most vibrant rivalry we have in South Florida top-tier sports. UM-FSU in football might come closest. The teams' 103rd all-time meeting finds the Dolphins 8-5, the Jets 4-9, and Miami a 2 1/2-point road favorite for Saturday's 8:30 kickoff on NFL Network. As for the prime-time history being made? This is Miami's first Saturday night game ever -- the 124th prime-time game in franchise history, but the first on this day of the week. Now don't get me wrong here. It isn’t that I think the Jets are any good or even better than their sad record. No, this Doljetupset hunch is hinged on two main factors: 1) NYJ will load up defensively on Jay Ajayi and force the game on Matt Moore, who’ll be making his first start in five years in place of injured Ryan Tannehill, and on a short week, in cold, wet, sleety conditions. I can see a miserable game by Moore more than I can envision heroics. And 2) Bitter rivals, wintry conditions, prime time, the Planes in a spoiler role — I think all of this will tend to magnify the home-field advantage for the Jets. Moore has a chance to earn his niche alongside notable Dolphins backup QBs Earl Morrall and Don Strock if he can guide Miami into the playoffs. Fins are clawing hard to stay in the AFC chace and need this, but want isn’t everything. Losing Tannehill is a major blow. And NYJ had won three in a row in this series before Dolphins parlayed a fourth-quarter kickoff-return TD in Miami to win 27-23 in November. This pick presumes Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall, both less than 100 percent, will be ready for Jets. I might be guilty of underestimating the Dolphins (store that info for next time you wanna call me a homer), but I’m feeling the Jets, with nothing left but beaten pride, will pour all they have into this. My pick: N.Y. Jets, 20-17.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature (updated Mondays) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: No Tannehill? No worry? Moore, big defense carry Fins over Jets: Miami needed two wins in last three games to likely make playoffs for first time since 2008 – a chase complicated with Ryan Tannehill out. Saturday night at the lowly Jets needed to be one of those W's, and was, emphatically, 34-13, thanks largely to a big game from Matt Moore in his first start in five years. As for my pick on that game ... um, can I claim temporary insanity? A typographical error!?

2. HEAT: Miami seeking spark from six-game homestand: Struggling Heat is now 9-19 after Sunday's home loss to Boston and still hoping for lift from 10-day homestand. This used to be the franchise of the Big 3. Now it's the franchise that would settle for an occasional big 3-pointer.

3. CRAIG SAGER: Another tough week for loss in a tough 2016: Alan Thicke, to a heart attack while playing hockey with his son, then Craig Sager, after a long fight with  cancer. The NBA world reeled over Sager. The loud, colorful suit should be retired in his honor. R.I.P.

4. FAU: Small pond lands big fish. Lane Kiffin to Owls: You are lil' Florida Atlantic University from Conference USA coming off a 3-9 season, and you just hired champion Nick Saban's Alabama offensive coordinator as your new head coach. I'll see your Butch Davis, FIU, and raise! Merry Christmas, Owlheads. Kiffin might not stay long, but, for now, he's yours.

5. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Miami Beach, Boca Raton on deck as bowl season underway: The bigger bowls including UM's come later, but the glut commenced Saturday with six games. Now, all eyes on South Florida with Monday afternoon's Miami Beach Bowl (Central Michigan-Tulsa) at Marlins Park, then Tuesday night's Boca Raton Bowl (Memphis-Western Kentucky) at FAU Stadium.

6. PANTHERS: Jagr nears milestone amid Cats' struggles: Florida is only 3-7  since its premature, panicked coaching change and now reportedly has righted another wrong by restoring some of Dale Tallon's GM power. On the brighter side, ageless star Jaromir Jagr is now only three points from tying and four from surpassing Mark Messier as the NHL's second all-time points producer, behind only some guy named Gretzky.

7. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Gators, 'Noles take local stage: Miami Hurricanes men are 8-2 and No. 13 women are 9-1, but UM ceded the local college hoops stage for the weekend as the Florida Gators and FSU Seminoles won easily in the 23rd men's Orange Bowl Basketball Classic held in Sunrise.

8. MARLINS: Fish lose out on closer, Loria names his price: Marlins settled for reliever Brad Ziegler after their pursuit of ace closer Kenley Jansen ended when he resigned with the Dodgers. Meanwhile Forbes reported Jeffrey Loria is willing to sell team but his asking price is $1.7 billion -- triple the club's reported value. What say, South Florida? Hate Loria enough to pitch in?

9. JOE MIXON: Oklahoma RB stars in awful video: A video-gone-viral show the Sooners star running back punching a woman, shades of the video that ended Ray Rice's career. Dear Joe: the only thing falling harder than that poor woman in the video is your NFL future.

10. HOLIDAYS: Ready for Christmas in one week?: Note to self: Start your shopping soon.

Missing the HB10 cut: The Vikes have activated Adrian Peterson. Why do I feel dreadeda reinjury is coming? ..... Heat's Hassan Whiteside ripped Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, saying he "just catches lobs." If ever Whiteside's game fully catches up with his mouth, he'll be a superstar ..... Wake Forest fired broadcaster Tommy Elrod for providing football game plans to opponents. Whatever a "homer" announcer is, I reckon Elrod now qualifeis as the opposite ..... Minnesota's boycott ended and it will play in the Holiday Bowl, after all. Gophers threatened to sit out over the suspension of 10 teammates accused of sexual assault. Better they should have sat out either in embarrassment over those teammates or in support for the alleged victims ..... Baylor women beat Winthrop, 140-32. Not real fitting, that first syllable of Winthrop's name ..... Least-surprising things I have heard this month: Ronda Rousey is mulling a comeback ..... Finally, a farewell to the Paul & Young Ron Show's Ron Brewer, retired from the airwaves after 26 years.

THE LIST: DOLPHINS IN PRIME-TIME: Last night marked the Dolphins' 124th all-time game played in prime-time, but the first ever on a Saturday. Club's record in prime-time, in order of most games played by day of week:

Night              Games    Record, Pct.

Mondays          82          41-41, .500

Sundays          27          19-8, .704

Thursdays       12          6-6, .500

Fridays           2           1-1, .500

Saturday         1           1-0, 1.000   

Totals             124       68-56, .548

Note: Dolphins prime-time record vs. Jets is now 9-10. It is 7-4 at home, 2-6 away. It's 6-7 on Mondays, 1-3 on Sundays, 1-0 on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday. 

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 16, 2016

Dolphins-Jets, other NFL Week 15 prognostications; plus Jeffrey Loria, disrespecting Miami Hurricanes' football talent, farewell Ron Brewer, R.I.P. Craig Sager, your verdict on FIU/Davis vs. FAU/Kiffin & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Finsat501) It is FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16. Farewell, Ron Brewer, the droll sidekick on the Paul & Young Ron Show, retiring today after 26 years. Was pleased to briefly swing by the final show broadcast this morning from the Hard Rock Improv. 2) R.I.P., Craig Sager, 65. What a terrible year for loss. Good riddance, 2016! 3) Our new Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- just in time for the holidays. Click on Fins At 50 (pictured) for more info or to order through Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): FIU/Butch Davis vs. FAU/Lane Kiffin with poll, Dolphins playoff and draft prospects, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy Week 14 results, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (25 games) & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Jeffrey Loria's Marlins asking price: Forbes reports (here) that Jeffrey Loria is willing to sell the Miami Marlins, but that his asking price is $1.7 billion. That would be almost triple the estimated franchise value of $675 million. Sure. And I'm willing to sell my 1988 Toyota Tercel (needs work), but the asking price is $300,000.

Select recent columns: We haven't had as many lately due to vacation. A few: The Handoff Nobody Wanted, my latest column, on Matt Moore taking over as Dolphins QB for injured Ryan Tannehill. Also: Just Make the Damned Playoffs For a Change. Missing Dwyane Wade. Football Town Strikes Back. Surreal At 200 MPH. Doctor Speed.

FripixIT'S UPSET BIRD DAY / WEEK 15: OUR PICKS FOR DOLPHINS-JETS, REST OF NFLThe full launch of our Week 15 comes after a mixed start last night as we correctly had the Seahawks winning but mistakenly thought the Rams would cover the huge 15-point line. (Observation: Interim Rams coach John Fassel is in way over his head and looks older than his Dad). We enter the week a robust 33 games over .500 against the spread in our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald -- one of our best years ever. Click on Week 15 Gems as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our latest predictions for Dolphins-Jets, our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week and every other contest. We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column that today leads with the sad Buffalo Bills topping the list of sports' longest playoff droughts. Click on Death, Taxes and No Playoffs For Buffalo.

DISRESPECTING THE MIAMI HURRICANES' FOOTBALL TALENT: The Miami Hurricanes return to the practice field today for the Dec. 28 Russell Athletic Bowl vs. West Virginia in Orlando, and the Canes are 3-point favorites despite being 8-4 to WVU's 10-2. Yet, despite that, disrespect has become a running theme with UM. It is not entirely unfounded. Recognition of Miami's talent has
Respectbeen slow coming. The evidence is building. The All-ACC football teams were a snub. Only second-team cornerback Corn Elder and punter Justin Vogel made it on the first or second teams. No first team at all. That's one defensive player honored despite Miami being among national leaders in several defensive categories. "Maybe everybody tripped on the way to the end zone when they played us," defensive coordinator Manny Diaz famously said. Coach Mark Richt Tweeted: "It is hard for me to believe that we have one of the best defenses in America and only can get one guy as a second team All-ACC performer." Next: This week came Todd McShay's astoundingly premature Mock Draft 1.0 for ESPN today. Zero Canes in it. Four (!) Florida Gators in his first round and one Florida State Seminole, but nobody from UM. Next: ESPN lists its Top 50 players competing in bowl games. Zero Canes. Two Noles, one Gators, no UM. By the way Pitt has three players on that list. Miami beat Pitt this season 51-28. Richt and Diaz have a point in making a little noise publicly about the lack of respect for some of their players. There are worse motivations to carry with you to a bowl game.

Poll result: FIU's Davis beats FAU's Kiffin for new-coach hire: We asked what school made the bigger recent football coaching hire that should be more exciting to their fans, and FIU/Butch Davis defeated FAU/Lane Kiffin, 65.5 percent to 34.5%. No surprise as we imagine Panthers fans outnumber Owls fans among our readers/voters.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 14, 2016

Dolphins: Playoff hopes made really simple, first 2017 draft projection; plus FIU/Butch Davis vs. FAU/Lane Kiffin. Poll. Last day to vote; also, R.I.P. Alan Thicke, The Luddite's Heat MVP Standings, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy Week 14 (extreme results) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Alanthicke1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14. R.I.P. Alan Thicke, friend of the LeBatard Show who died unexpectedly of a heart attack last night at 69. 2) NFL announced that Miami would play one of the four games in London next season. Dolphins will face the New Orleans Saints in Week 3 or 4, either Sept. 24 or Oct. 1. 3) The Miami Herald's new Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- just in time for the holidays. Click on Fins At 50 for more info or to order through Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins beat Arizona but Tannehill injured, DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10, Heat-struggles verdict, The List & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

On Tannehill's injury, other select recent columns: The Handoff Nobody Wanted, my latest column, on Matt Moore taking over as Dolphins QB for injured Ryan Tannehill. Also: Just Make the Damned Playoffs For a Change. Missing Dwyane Wade. Football Town Strikes Back. Surreal At 200 MPH. Doctor Speed.

10winsDOLPHINS PLAYOFF HOPES, 2017 DRAFT OUTLOOK: A double-dose of late-season Dolphins stuff... Playoff hopes made very simple: It's 10 wins or bust: Why do we try to complicate this with all of the tiebreaker permutations and various scenarios and if-this and if-thats. The Dolphins making the playoffs for the first time since 2008 could not be simpler, really. They have three games left: at Jets, at Bills, home vs. Pats. If they win at least two of the three, they'll make it. if they don't, they won't. Period. That's it. Let's let makenflplayofs.com tell us with their computers and their percentile Orbustlikelihoods. Miami is 8-5. If the Fins finish 3-0 = 11-5, they are not quite guaranteed but 97.29 percent certain to get in. If they finish 2-1 = 10-6, they're still quite likely at 58.51%. But iff they finish 1-2 = 9-7, the probability Ojhowardplummets all the way down to a very unlikely 6.91%. At 0-3 = 8-8, it's a negligible trace of 0.01%. So, you want this, Dolphins? Don't worry about tiebreakers or what are teams are doing. Win at least two more. Get to 10. Not complicated. Early mock draft has Fins taking Alabama tight end: Crimson Tide TE O.J. Howard (pictured left) goes to Miami with the No. 16 pick of first round, according to Todd McShay's astoundingly premature Mock Draft 1.0 for ESPN today. He has another 'Bama guy, DE Jonathan Allen, going No. 1 overall to Cleveland. McShay has four (!) Florida Gators in the first round: CB Teez Tabor 18th, DT Caleb Brantley 23rd, LB Jarrad Davis 24th and CB Quincy Wilson 27th. He has FSU RB Dalvin Cook going 20th.

A RIVALRY HEATS UP BECAUSE FIU VS. FAU IS NOW BUTCH DAVIS VS. LANE KIFFIN: Interesting times for college football in South Florida. This has been a market owned in the sport by the FaufiuMiami Hurricanes for so long -- a stature only underlined before this season when UM made the very popular hire of longtime Georgia coach and Canes alum Mark Richt, who started and finished strong in guiding The U to an 8-4 season and upcoming bowl. Miami's FIU and Boca Raton's FAU have been afterthoughts, even Butchdavis Lanekiffinthough both are FBS (nee Division 1) level. But that could be changing with the dynamic coaching hires each has made. Don't get me wrong. UM still is local king in collball, a status pretty much unthreatened. But FIU's Panthers, in Butch Davis, and FAU's Owls, now with Lane Kiffin, have jumped on the radar, nationally as well as locally, with attention-getting hires of "name" coaches. I don't know how long each will be here. FIU and FAU are, for now, steppingstone jobs. Davis, at 65, may content to make this job his career's winter. No doubt Kiffin, 41 and a coaching nomad, is looking to parlay something good in Miami to his next top-tier shot. But however long each man is here, the FIU-FAU rovalry is enlivened, big-time, as FIU gets a Canes head coach who is a proven recruiter, and FAU gets an experienced head coach who most recently has been Alabama's (very successful) offensive coordinator under Nick Saban. That's how to get noticed, folks. I'm curious who you consider to be the bigger hire -- who's fans should be more excited right now. Say you followed Conference USA football, FIU and FAU. Stepping back to see the question neutrally, whose fans should be more excited by their school's recent hire? Take a dip in our poll.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY WEEK 14 RESULTS: EXCELLENCE ON PREDIX, BUT LOBOS BOW OUT UGLY: Every week in the blog I update you on how we did, for better or worse, the previous weekend with our NFL predictions and LeBatard Show fantasy team, and this week's results could not be more extreme. NFL pix: Excellence! We went 12-4 straight-up and a crazy-good 12-3-1 against the spread, with the tie the Patriots pushing at seven points. We're now a really, really strong 33 games above .500 ATS for the season. Fantasy: Ugh. As in Ugh-ly. Greg's Lobos ended the regular season at 10-3 and the No. 1 playoff seed in the radio-show, but promptly got our ass kick and quickly were eliminated in a 117-37 loss -- our worst performance of the season by a ton. That it was Dan "Auto-Draft" LeBatard who beat me made it worse. The Lobos may be forced to consider managerial changes. #WeAreTheLobos

LudditeUPDATED: "THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS" (25 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and introduce a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 8-17 fter last night's win over Washington, here's The Luddite's fifth installment, with 20-game rank in parentheses:

The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (25 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)       809

2. Goran Dragic (2)             586

3. Tyler Johnson (3)            497

4. James Johnson (5)          350

5. Dion Waiters (4)              346

6. Rodney McGruder (7)      266

7. Josh Richardson (6)        239

8. Justise Winslow (8)         181

9. Josh McRoberts (10)      177

10. Wayne Ellington (13)    160

Others: Derrick Williams 153, Willie Reed 152, Luke Babbitt 123, Udonis Haslem 17. 

 
Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 13, 2016

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 93.2%; plus Dolphins win offset by Tannehill knee injury with my column; also, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), your verdict on Big 3 laughing at Heat & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, DECEMBER 12. The Miami Herald's new Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- just in time for the holidays. Click on Fins At 50 for more info or to order through Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ranking the 11 Florida-affiliated bowl games, ex-Big 3 laughing at Heat with poll, NFL Week 14 picks, your Canes bowl-matchup verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

A Dolphins win so big, and so costly: Sunday's last-second win over Arizona kept Miami in the thick of the AFC playoff chase at 8-5. But rarely has a win so big found a postgame lockerroom so somber. Ryan Tannehill's left-knee injury dominated hearts and minds as Tannehill handed the football, the team and the franchise's playoff hopes to backup Matt Moore. Click on The Handoff Nobody Wanted for my column from the game. Today there was better than expected news: Tannehill has an ACL and MCL sprain, not a tear, and will not require surgery. However, he'll miss at least the next two games and possibly the balance of the season.

Other select recent columns: Just Make the Damned Playoffs For a Change, on Dolphins' December imperative. Week 14 Gems, our latest NFL predictions. King Sport 3Qs, our NFL and Dolphins third-quarter awards. Also: Missing Dwyane Wade. Football Town Strikes Back. Surreal At 200 MPH. Doctor Speed.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G13: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show a rebound to 93.2 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 26-23 victory vs. Arizona putting Miami's season record at 8-5. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 6:30 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2016 DSM results

G1: 52.5% (following 12-10 loss at Seattle)

G2: 13.3% (following 31-24 loss at New England)

G3: 9.9% (following 30-24 OT victory vs. Cleveland)

G4: 3.0% (following 22-7 loss at Cincinnati)

G5: 3.2% (following 30-17 loss vs. Tennessee)

G6: 67.4% (following 30-15 victory vs. Pittsburgh)

G7: 90.9% (following 28-25 victory vs. Buffalo)

G8: 94.0% (following 27-23 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G9: 96.8% (following 31-24 victory at San Diego)

G10: 95.7% (following 14-10 victory at Los Angeles)

G11: 95.9% (following 31-24 victory vs. San Francisco)

G12: 34.8% (following 38-6 loss at Baltimore)

G13: 93.2% (following 26-23 victory vs. Arizona)

Next poll: Dec. 17 (following game at N.Y. Jets)

G13: ARIZONA @ DOLPHINS: MIAMI'S TEETERING PLAYOFF HOPES CANNOT AFFORD LOSS HERE: Postgame thoughts: Crazy, wild, weird, wet game won by Miami 26-23 on last-play field goal. Tannehill goes out with left-knee injury with Fins leading 21-9 and Miami hangs on to improve to 8-5 and bolster playoff hopes. Tannehill injury was first not thought to be serious, but after the game coach Adam Gase said the injury "doesn't look good" and that an ACL tear is the concern. It still is premature to confirm Tannehill is done for the year but that is the fear. In any case the season moves on with Moore at QB. It was a sloppy, turnover-filled game -- but the kind you have to win, at home, to be a playoff team. It also was a result overshadowed and made bittersweet by Tannehill's injury ..... 4Q: Miami wins 26-23 on 21-yard Franks FG on final play of regulation! ... Oh my. ARI ties it 23-23 with 3:01 left on Palmer-Nelson 8-yard TD pass and then 2-point conversion pass to Johnson ... MIA now up 23-15. Cards score on 9-yard Palmer-Golden TD pass, but extra point try is blocked by Phillips, returned for 2-point conversion (a rule since 2015) by Aikens ... Was announced Tannehill is questionable to return, a good sign the injury is not too serious ..... 3Q: Tannehill: leaves game with 1:23 left in third with apparent left knee injury, severity unknown. Left on his own power, though, a good sign. But limping to lockerroom, not a good sign. Moore in at QB. Tannehill took a hit from former Cane Calais Campbell after releasing pass. Hit was a bit low and late, not necessarily dirty ... Miami commits third turnover, a Landry fumble loss on punt return ... MIA with a comfy-for-now 21-9 lead on Tannehill 3-yard scoring pass to Williams, Tanny's third of game. A 71-yard pass play to Landry was big (huge) play of drive ..... Halftime thoughts: Six turnovers, 10 accepted penalties, five punts -- let's call it one of the ugliest halves of football we have seen and gives thanks for the end of it. Steady rain was a fitting backdrop that surely had a hand in the sloppiness. Stat of the half: Carson Palmer's shoe-size passer rating of 11.6. One point of concern for Dolfans, though. You only lead by five points despite a plus-2 (4-2) on turnovers ..... 2Q: ARI within 14-9 on 56-yard FG with 1:18 left in half ... Wake third-down sack just saved the Dolphins points. Forced a Cards 41-yard FG try that hit the upright and bounced no good ... Miami has turned only one of four Arizona turnovers into points. Could come back to haunt ... Arizona's fourth turnover of game is receovered by Fede, but MIA fails to capitalize, punts ... MIA 14-6 on Tannehill 7-yard scoring pass to Sims, Tanny's second of game. Sack of Tannehill erased by defensive holding was big play in drive ..... 1Q: Cards recover Miami fumble at Dolphins' 2. Appeared to be muffed snap. Huge turnover -- fifth of quarter! ... Rambo INT for Miami is fourth turnover of opening quarter, returns 17 yards to Arizona 10 ... Denver losing 10-0 in Tennessee. Titans trying to help Dolphins ... MIA gets it right back when Wake causes and Paysinger recovers fumble by Johnson. But Fins punt after officials miss facemask on Ajayi ... Tannehill intercepted as he throws intio coverage Cards CB Cooper beats Stills for the football ... ARI within 7-6 on 56-yard end-around run by WR Nelson, followed by botched extra-point kick ... Gorgeous pass! MIA up 7-0 on Tannehill bullet to Stills in-stride in the end zone ... Miami LB Hull, starrting for injured Alonso, intercepts Palmer off deflection on opening series ... Arizona opts to begin game on offense, not defer. Refreshing! ... Miami fans today are rooting for the Dolphins first and, second, for the Titans to beat Denver ..... Pregame: Today'sDolphins season milestone watch: Ajayi needs 92 rushing yards for 1,000 and Tannehill needs 200 passing yards for 3,000 ... C Pouncey, LB Alonso the most notable Fins inactives today, neither a surprise ..... Original post: Miami is 7-5 and the home team and opened as a 2 1/2-point favorite, yet Arizona, the 5-6-1 road team, closed favored by 2 because so much betting money flooded in on the Cardinals. This tells you two things: 1) Joe Public sees the Dolphins falls short of the playoffs every year Arimiaand so thinks they'll do it again. And 2) Joe recognizes that 'Zona has lots and lots of talent, has underachieved and is one of those losing-record teams tailor-made as a spoiler for the likes of Miami. And here's the thing. That big swing in that betting line was understandable, justifiable. Underachieving Cardbirds were 13-3 last year, and the Dolphins' defense has been bad the past two games. I mean, how wide was Carson Palmer’s grin as he watched Joe Flacco scissor up the Dolphins’ pass defense last week? ’Zona’s 1-4 road record gives us some pause here, but Palmer has weapons like Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and, of course, all-purpose back and fantasy monster David Johnson. Defensively, the Cacti are above average, with playmakers front to back, from Old Cane Calais Campbell rushing the passer to Patrick Peterson thinking INT on every dropback. Expect a high-quality game as both teams play with little margin for error in the playoff chase. Cards need to run the table to have any shot at all in NFC. Dolphs are in better shape in AFC but need a strong finish plus a stumble by Denver. It may take three wins in last four games to assure a playoff ticket for Miami, so today is not a loss this team can afford. Arizona coach Bruce Arians takes chances (pet phrase: “No risk-it, no biscuit”) so Miami’s D should expect some fourth-down gambles or trickery. See a tough matchup for Fins. My pick: Arizona, 23-20.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (DEC. 11): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins get big win but lose Tannehill: Was it the team that won six games in a row or was it the team that was so horrible in that 38-6 loss in Baltimore last week? Who are the real 2016 Miami Dolphins and will they stand up in time to (finally) make the playoffs? Sunday's 26-23 home win over Arizona suggested the playoffs remain vitally in play. But the injury loss of Tannehill may have much to say about that.

2. HEAT: Miami visits LeBron, D-Wade back to back, unfortunately: The depleted, injury-wracked Heat now sit near the NBA basement at 7-17 after back-to-back losses to LeBron James in Cleveland and Dwyane Wade in Chicago entering tonight's home game vs. Washington. Human nature: LeBron and D-Wade privately must be delighting in Miami's struggles. (And maybe Chris Bosh, too, right?)

3. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Army-Navy, check. Heisman, check. On deck: Bowls!: Army upset Navy to end the regular season Saturday and Louisville QB Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy. Next, in a three-week glut from Dec. 17 through Jan. 9, there will be 42 bowl games after which you'll almost certainly be sick of college football.

4. PANTHERS: Um, how's that coaching change working out?: The big-dreaming Cats were 11-11 a quarter into NHL season when, in a premature panic, they dumbly fired coach Gerard Gallant. Since the change, even with Saturday night's home win, they are only 2-5.

5. MARLINS: Fish chase elite, pricey closer: As baseball's winter meetings ended the Marlins were continuing to seriously pursue coveted closer Kenley Jansen. The apparent strategy? Post-Jose Fernandez, if you don't have a great starter, better at least have a great finisher.

6. HURRICANES: UM preps for bowl vs. West Virginia: Canes will face West Virginia Mountaineers Dec. 28 in the Russell Athletic Bowl Orlando. It's a medium-sized bowl, but when you last won a bowl game in 2006 and are 0-6 since, a win for UM would be extra-large.

7. BASEBALL: Starter, closer top the winter-meeting headlines: Ace starter Chris Sale to the Red Sox and overpriced closer Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees made the big new in baseball's "hot stove" league. A 2017 Cubs-Red Sox World Series is hereby anointed!

8. MLS CUP: Seattle wins MLS Cup: Seattle beat Toronto 5-4 on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw to win the Major League Soccer Cup. This is the league in which David Beckham is trying to put a Miami team. Not succeeding, but at least trying.

9. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women, men running smoothly: With both teams off until Friday, Miami's women are 8-1 and ranked No. 14, and the men are 7-2 despite this supposedly being a rebuilding year.

10. INTERNATIONAL SOCCER: Champions League draw is Monday: The draw for the knockout-stage round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League will be held Monday. Spain has four of the least 16 clubs standing, with three each for England and Germany.

Missing the HB10 cut: To the list of life's unending mysteries, add this: Why do newspapers, including my own, continually report as news whatever Mel Kiper Jr. guesses about the upcoming NFL Draft? ..... Tickets went on sale this week for sailing's 2017 America's Cup taking place next May and June in Bermuda. God I hope I'm not too late!!

Poll result: Yes, the ex-Big 3 are enjoying the Heat's struggles: We asked which of Heat's former Big 3 you imagine is deriving the most satisfaction from team's current struggles mirrored in a 7-17 record, and Dwyane Wade led with 27.5 percent, followed by "all three" with 25.4%, LeBron James with 23.3% and Chris Bosh with 10.8%. The other 13.1% voted "none of them."

THE LIST: MOST PROLIFIC QBS VS. DOLPHINS THIS SEASON: Bearing in mind the Dolphins did not face then-suspended Tom Brady in the early-season Patriots game, this becomes a tough question: Which starting quarterback the Dolphins have faced so far in 2016 -- including today's Arizona game -- has had the most career passing yards? It's tough because the top three choices are this close:

Quarterback, Team                    Yards on date of Miami game

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers        44,491 / Oct. 16, 2016

Philip Rivers, Chargers                44,007 / Nov. 13, 2016

Carson Palmer, Cardinals             43,267 / Dec. 11, 2016

Note: Brady, whom Fins are scheduled to meet in regular-season finale, currently has 60,498 yards, fifth all-time. The totals of Roethlisberger, Rivers and Palmer rank 11th, 12th and 14th.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote