Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin maps out his team's hourly schedule months in advance and reads postgame locker-room speeches from index cards.

He prefers working from a script. But when this season strayed from the planned outline, and a bullying scandal accelerated the team's tailspin, Philbin responded with steady leadership that has won praise from his players and assistants — and kept Miami in the playoff race.

Given the Dolphins' disarray six week ago, it's remarkable they're 7-6 and in contention for the AFC's final wild-card berth heading into their game Sunday against New England.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick credits Philbin for steady improvement by Miami despite the scandal.

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