If the Miami Dolphins are going to be a playoff contender, they probably need to start stacking some wins together.
It hasn't happened this season.
The up-and-down Dolphins (3-3) will try to end the trend Sunday against the no-longer-winless Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6).
"We've got to finish games better," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "Certainly we haven't done it yet, and until we do, it's one of the challenges we've got to meet as a football team."
Miami faded down the stretch in losses to Buffalo, Kansas City and Green Bay. The Dolphins rebounded from the last-second loss to the Packers and won at Chicago last week. How they handle another road trip to Jacksonville, which is coming off its first win since last December, might be a more telling sign of the team's makeup.
Philbin didn't want to call it a "trap" game, but cornerback Cortland Finnegan said it's human nature to overlook a one-win team like Jacksonville.
"I think you can, but we've only got three wins," Finnegan said. "They don't care that we won last week and vice versa. I think they're going to come out, they're playing at home, they're energetic, they're young, they're coached well. I think they are looking for the next opportunity to get a win, and we can't let our guard down."
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley is concerned about how his young team will respond following its first victory. Jacksonville had its best defensive performance of the season in a 24-6 win against Cleveland, but rookie quarterback Blake Bortles threw a career-high three interceptions.
"I talked to them about, 'Just because we had a win, there's something else missing,'" Bradley said. "I think some of the guys felt like we didn't play our best. ... To me, that's victory and we're striving to get everybody to be at their best, then the results will come."
Here are some things to know about the Dolphins and Jaguars heading into Sunday's game:
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Miami has played solid defense most of the year, with pass rushers Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon leading the way up front, and cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Brent Grimes handling things on the back end. Jacksonville hasn't been nearly as stout in 2014, but the Jaguars have been at their best the last three weeks. Bradley's unit has given up two touchdowns and allowed an average of 309 yards against Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Cleveland. "The film says that this team is improving dramatically over the last three weeks that we're playing," Philbin said.
ADDITION, SUBTRACTION: The Dolphins are expected to have defensive end Dion Jordan, the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, active after serving a six-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. The Jaguars, meanwhile, could be down four defenders. They lost starting linebacker Paul Posluszny (torn pectoral) for the season against Cleveland and defensive end Andre Branch (groin) for at least six weeks. Alan Ball is "highly unlikely" to play because of a biceps injury, and fellow starting cornerback Dwayne Gratz left practice Thursday with a hip flexor tightness.
BACKUP RBS: Both teams will start backup running backs in Week 8, with the Dolphins turning to Lamar Miller to replace Knowshon Moreno following a season-ending knee injury, and the Jaguars switching to former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson after Toby Gerhart reinjured his right foot. Miller ranks sixth in the AFC with 391 yards rushing. Robinson is coming off a career game: He ran 22 times for 127 yards and a touchdown against the Browns.
MOBILE QBS: Miami's Ryan Tannehill and Jacksonville's Bortles rank first and second, respectively, in the AFC in yards rushing by quarterbacks. Tannehill has 150 yards on the ground — more than any Jacksonville running back — and Bortles has 143. Tannehill's 40-yard run against Green Bay is the team's longest of the season, and Bortles' 20-yarder against Indianapolis is tied for Jacksonville's longest in 2014.
NO POOLS: Jacksonville's two pools at EverBank Field will be covered up for Sunday's game. Construction workers have begun installing temporary seating for the annual Florida-Georgia college football game played at the stadium. So instead of having a two-story party deck with the two wading pools and several high-priced cabanas, the Jaguars will have half-installed metal framing that will be used for extra bleachers.
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