Tua Tagovailoa will sit out Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders due to fractured ribs. The Dolphins don’t play the Patriots again until Week 18.
But Tagovailoa’s absence, regardless of how long it lasts, could significantly impact New England’s quest for a spot in the NFL playoffs.
The second-year signal-caller, now considered “week-to-week,” left during the second quarter of Miami’s Week 2 loss to the Buffalo Bills after suffering the injury. Jacoby Brissett filled in, eventually completing 24-of-40 passes for 169 yards while throwing an interception, and will start in place of Tagovailoa on Sunday.
The true severity of Tagovailo’s injury remains to be seen. He seemingly will return sooner rather than later, but we also are talking about an injury-prone player whom some consider brittle. Perhaps he misses extended time.
Either way, Tagovailoa, while far from perfect, is a better quarterback than Brissett — he just is. Miami is a worse team with Tagovailoa on the sidelines. The Dolphins’ upcoming schedule isn’t anything too crazy — in order: at Raiders, Colts, at Buccaneers, at Jaguars, Falcons — but losing a game they should win becomes far more possible with Brissett in and Tagovailoa out.
That’s as big of a deal for Miami as it is New England. The two teams easily could be vying for the same Wild Card spots at the end of the season. The division rivals finishing with the same record, and thus introducing tiebreakers, is a totally realistic scenario. It’s partly why we’ve said the Patriots’ Week 1 loss to the Dolphins could come back to haunt them.
Miami suddenly could be a nine-to-10-win team, rather than one that wins 11 or 12. That could mean everything for a Patriots team that, if everything goes right, should win at least 10 games. The margins for error for both groups are very slim.
Plus, and this probably is looking too far down the road, the Patriots would have an easier time beating the Dolphins in Week 18 if Brissett is under center in Miami. But we’ll cross that bridge if it ever is built.
Again, there’s a chance that Miami wins this weekend, Tagovailoa misses only one game and none of this ultimately matters. But there also is a scenario in which we look back and identify Tagovailo’s injury as one of multiple key factors in New England returning to the postseason.
Just keep an eye on this storyline. That’s all we’re saying.