Dolphins need Skylar Thompson to lead explosive offense in must-win finale

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Skylar Thompson will start for the Miami Dolphins in a must-win Week 18 game against the New York Jets that could be decided by his ability to produce explosive plays.

The Dolphins are on a five-game losing streak that has dropped them from 8-3 to 8-8 and on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

Yet Miami will qualify for the postseason if the Dolphins beat the Jets – who were eliminated with last week's loss to the Seattle Seahawks – and the New England Patriots lose to the Buffalo Bills.

The task of achieving that feat has been complicated by the Dolphins' quarterback situation.

Tua Tagovailoa remains out of action having been placed in the concussion protocol following the Dolphins' Christmas Day loss to the Green Bay Packers, and his backup Teddy Bridgewater suffered a finger injury in the defeat to the Patriots last week.

Thompson was subsequently thrown into the fire and never came close to rallying the Dolphins to a key victory, having also looked ill-equipped to lead the attack in a 40-17 loss to the Jets in Week 5, in which Bridgewater was injured on the first offensive play for Miami while filling in for Tagovailoa after he was concussed against the Cincinnati Bengals.

But the Dolphins have no choice but to look to him to thrive throwing the ball for a passing attack that has racked up 60 passing plays of 20 yards or more, a tally that trails only the Philadelphia Eagles (61) and Kansas City Chiefs (71).

The problem is that the Dolphins are facing a defense that has excelled at taking away the big play.

Indeed, the only team to allow fewer 20-yard pass plays than the Jets (36) are the New Orleans Saints (33).

With the Jets coaching staff perhaps coaching for their jobs, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel will expect his opponents, led by his former San Francisco 49ers colleague Robert Saleh, to offer another stern test.

If Thompson and the Dolphins cannot find a way to come through it and miss out on the playoffs, there will be plenty of questions about what went wrong in a season that once looked so promising.