There was a time when Dolphin fans could pull the disrespect card. There was a time when the Dolphins could understandably put on the cliche "us against the world" mentality, and get motivation from the media's constant downplaying of anything they did.
That may have been the case with the success they had in 2008, but it's becoming evident that more and more high-profile media members are starting to buy into Miami as a legitimate contender, who is not only a threat to win the AFC East, but could have the potential to make a deep playoff run.
Today was no exception. On the NFL Network's Around the League, Micheal Lombardi said some things about the Dolphins, other analyst seem hesitant, maybe even afraid to.
The topic was which AFC team would improve the most in 2010. Lombardi confidently picked the Dolphins, raving about how Brandon Marshall brings big play potential to an offense who's execution was already outstanding.
He also pointed out how people forget they beat the Jets twice last season, and even went as far as to say he thinks they are the team to beat in the AFC East. Talk about going out on a limb.
Some Dolphin fans might not even be willing to go that far. In most cases, probably for fear of homerism or getting their hopes up too high, but hearing a neutral expert say some of the things the fans have undoubtedly been thinking, could give some fans a reason to embrace these suddenly high expectations.
Perhaps inspired by Lombardi's bold comments, is the Dolphins inclusion in a current NFL.com poll that ask the question: which team is the biggest threat to unseat the Colts in the AFC?
Miami may currently be in last place in that poll, but just the fact that they are being considered one of the elite teams in the AFC speaks volumes about how the perception of this football has drastically changed in just one offseason.
I know what your thinking though; that underdog title can't be lifted until ESPN comes around. Well, that appears to be the case, with the rate they're going. Last week they managed to give the Dolphins a very respectable 11th overall ranking in their Ultimate Power Rankings.
Then, today, on NFL Live, former Patriot Teddy Bruschi nominated Chad Henne as his favorite to represent the NFL for the 2011 ESPY's breakout athlete of the year award. He didn't stop there, either. Bruschi also included the Dolphins in the three team race for the AFC East, something the self-entitled "worldwide leader in sports" has failed to do on numerous occasions this offseason.
What does all of this mean? You can argue that it won't mean anything once this season finally kicks off. But in reality, expectations haven't been this high for this team in years. Pressure to win now has returned to the equation.
But are these expectations too high? And will the Dolphins live up to them, or falter like the team we have become well accustomed to?
Of course, only time will answer these questions. I, for one, am still holding my breath, though. I agree that the Dolphins finally have the talent and the potential to be a great team, but with so many uncertainties on the defensive side of the ball, and yes, even Chad Henne, it would be very difficult for me to commit to buying into them as much as Lombardi has.
But for the first time in years, the aspirations that have arose are actually possible. And in my book, that's something to get excited about.