Dolphins are in the hunt for first division title since 2008 (copy)

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) gesture as he leaves the field at the end of a game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Dolphins defeated the Chargers 29-21.

The Dolphins’ quarterback Sunday afternoon will be the first left-hander with the initials T.T. to start in Denver since Youknowwho.

The last one won his first start in 2011 against the Dolphins on the road and won his last start @Mile High the same season.

This one hasn’t lost any of his three starts, and the Dolphins, with a 6-3 record, are what the Broncos, who are 3-6, would aspire to be. The South Florida team possesses a young ex-Southeastern Conference quarterback that the Colorado Front Range team with a young ex-Southeastern Conference quarterback would desire to have.

Pity.

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Drew Lock, the Hawaiian Punch against Buzz Lightyear.

Maybe. Lock is injured — again. He’s day-to-day, but aren’t we all in these trouble times?

Tua occupies the NFL’s third-highest QB passer rating (104.8) spot with five touchdowns and zero interceptions and a 63.6 percent completion rate, while Drew has the second-lowest grade (66.5) among quarterbacks who’ve started six or more games. He has thrown seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions and been on target on 58.6 percent of his passes.

Lock and Tagovailoa are linked. They played against each other once in the 2018 season, and Tuscaloosa Tua threw three touchdowns for Alabama while Missouri’s Lock finished with one touchdown, two interceptions and a forced safety in the 39-10 defeat. Tagovailoa’s first touchdown, an 81-yard pass-and-run, was to a fellow named Jerry Jeudy.

Lock had been named preseason all-SEC quarterback. Tagovailoa’s postseason designation was conference Offensive Player of the Year.

They meet again if Lock, who is a wrecking-ball foil for defenses, doesn’t miss his 14th game in two seasons. Despite an all-Awful Sunday struggle, which included four interceptions, Drew received a vote of assurance from Vic Fangio, who said the quarterback has the “talent’’ to overcome recent travails and will continue as the starter for the rest of the season. That is, assuming he doesn’t get hurt regularly.

If Tua and the Dolphins, who are favored by a field goal over the Broncos, keep on winning and reach the playoffs, the quarterback could be in the lead paragraph with Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert for AFC offensive rookie of the year.

If Lock maintains his current level of play, he will be in the conversation for worst full-time starting quarterback.

After the past two losses, Drew is not a popular guy in the sports media or on social media. One alleged wise guy recommends that the Broncos dump Drew at season’s conclusion and trade for the Jets' Sam Darnold, who is in his third year.

Really? Darnold is a viable candidate for sorriest throughout the league. His passer rating this season is lower than Lock’s at 65.9. Drew has a 6-6 record as a starter, and Darnold is 11-21.

In a ranking of quarterbacks who have qualified by starting a majority of their team's games, Sam and Drew are dueling dungeon dwellers. Lock’s predecessor, Joe Flacco, would be alongside them if he hadn’t started only four while Darnold has been injured.

Here is a real dilemma for Lock: In his dozen starts he has beaten only one winning team — the Texans last season.

The Lock Quarterback Quandary doesn’t get calmer against five foes with winning records and four exceptional quarterbacks remaining on the schedule. He still must clash with Herbert, MVP Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr a second time, and Josh Allen, who the Broncos should have drafted at No. 5 overall in 2018. The Broncos also will confront the Panthers and Teddy Bridgewater, but got very fortunate that the injured Drew Brees will be out when the Saints come to Denver on Nov. 29. Jameis Winston, who used to be somebody, likely will start.

So, Lock must face a seven-game challenge to determine his future with the Broncos.

Is he a stud or a dud?

If Drew can’t fling a fade and fades down the stretch, and can’t improve on his footwork and football work, he will become the latest Broncos’ failure. Under John Elway, one of the greatest in league history, the Broncos could suffer through nine flops who started at quarterback.

Only three Broncos quarterbacks have won playoff games since Elway retired. Jake Plummer and Peyton Manning were two.

And the third was the One-Season Wonder left-hander with the initials T.T.

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