Head coach Mike McDaniel's response to leading the conference with five games remaining: Big whoop.
"Call me when it's a 13-game season, and I'll be excited to talk about the next game," McDaniel said, laughing, via the official transcript. "I think for all of us that have been around the NFL long enough, you get about five games, four games left, and that becomes a lot of the conversation. And it does take a lot of execution to get there. But it's kind of one of those tricky things. There's a lot of distraction, like look over here while this is going on, that you have to battle to be successful in the National Football League. And the only thing that really matters is how we continue our development of mastering each and every day."
The Dolphins have handled their business in games they were supposed to win while stubbing their toe in matchups against playoff contenders (Buffalo, Philadelphia, Kansas City). Ensuring they don't take any team lightly that has them leading the conference.
"The only reason why we're 9-3 is because we haven't penciled in any of the wins that people have told us to pencil in," McDaniel said. "That's why other games that we have won, typically each and every team isn't discussed with regard to, 'Oh yeah, they beat the teams they're supposed to.' Well, there's a lot of teams that are below .500 that are getting wins against teams above .500."
McDaniel knows work is left for the Dolphins to hold onto the top spot in the AFC. Miami faces Tennessee on Monday night and the New York Jets in Week 15. Then the schedule ramps up with a brawl against Dallas, a trip to Baltimore (which could have significant conference implications), before finishing with a Buffalo rematch.
Understanding there are still twists and turns on the road ahead keeps McDaniel and the Dolphins focused on the present.
"It's interesting, kind of cool, and I'm happy for the fan base to get that excitement," he said of the current positioning. "That's all nice, but we have a job to do today."
McDaniel added: "My reaction to it is, 'Oh.' But irrelevant and erroneous for what's the most important thing, and that's a game that will be played this week on national television. It will be the only game that matters to each and every player in that locker room. I can just tell by the way they've approached the whole season."
The approach has the Dolphins in control of how the AFC's No. 1 seed shakes out. If they win their remaining five games, the road through the conference runs through Miami.