Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to miss Week 17 after positive COVID-19 test

The Miami Dolphins won't have Ryan Fitzpatrick for Week 17 due to a positive COVID-19 test. Can Tua Tagovailoa get Miami to the playoffs on his own?

By Matt Fitzgerald
Dec 26, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raidersat Allegiant Stadium. The Dolphins defeated the Raiders 26-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins‘ quarterback controversy became a little clearer at least for Sunday’s Week 17 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, as Ryan Fitzpatrick won’t be available after testing positive for COVID-19.

Rookie first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa was meant to start under center for Miami anyway, yet if he struggles, the Dolphins won’t have their reliable backup in Fitzpatrick to turn to.

Miami Dolphins: Ryan Fitzpatrick out vs. Bills following positive COVID-19 test

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported the unfortunate news for Fitzpatrick, who replaced Tagovailoa in Week 16’s dramatic victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Fitzpatrick has been effective when he’s started this season, completing 68.5% of his passes for 2,091 yards (7.8 yards per attempt) with 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 95.6 passer rating.

Most importantly, though, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has been able to turn to Fitzpatrick on multiple occasions when his first-year signal-caller has struggled to get the offense going. It happened versus the Raiders, and Fitzpatrick generated some Fitzmagic to keep Miami’s playoff hopes alive.

Now it’s up to Tagovailoa to take a big step forward for the Dolphins to have any chance at the postseason.

Related: NFL Playoff predictions Week 17 – Closing in on the playoffs.

Miami Dolphins quarterback outlook for Week 17

Miami Dolphins quarterback outlook for Week 17
Dec 26, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) throws the ball in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. The Dolphins defeated the Raiders 26-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It appears Fitzpatrick is an isolated case right now, but further testing will determine whether or not anyone else in Miami’s quarterback room is deemed a high-risk contact and is in jeopardy of also missing Week 17.

In the event the offense struggles to get momentum going at Buffalo with Tagovailoa at the controls, there’s always the possibility that the Dolphins turn to Lynn Bowden Jr. to take some snaps at quarterback.

Bowden was a third-round pick of the Raiders this year, yet was abruptly traded for reasons unclear. Now, he’s established himself as a solid receiver in Miami, and has even played QB in Wildcat-style formations. He served as the quarterback at University of Kentucky before switching positions at the NFL level.

At the very least, Bowden offers a unique element as an exceptional ball-carrier that Tagovailoa doesn’t. Miami could even get creative with some trick plays when they’re on the field at the same time.

In all likelihood, though, Sunday’s AFC East battle will come down to who the division champion Bills are resting as they prepare for the playoffs. If the Dolphins lose, they need Baltimore, Cleveland or Indianapolis to lose, and all those teams are heavily favored in their Week 17 matchups.

Despite a strong 10-2 TD-to-INT ratio and a 6-2 record as starter, Tagovailoa is limited at this early stage of his career and can’t make the chunk plays in the passing game that Fitzpatrick can on a consistent basis. Tagovailoa must continue playing mistake-free football for Miami to beat Buffalo and to have any chance at advancing in the postseason.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens if Tagovailoa is shaky but does enough to win versus the Bills. When Fitzpatrick presumably returns, will he be tabbed as starter for the playoffs?

Related: NFL Power Rankings – Ranking each team for NFL Playoffs.