For the first time since the 2008 season, Dolphins fans have the pleasure of looking at the NFL standings only to see that Miami is in a tie for first in the AFC East. At 3-3, the team has surpassed all the expectations set for them by both the media and the fan base.
The Dolphins are one of six teams that have a week 7 bye and while many would argue that rest at this point in the season will only stop the team's momentum, it will actually benefit Miami going forward. Although the 'Fins have battled back from a 1-3 record to imporve to .500, the past four games have taken a toll on the players both physically and mentally. A knee injury has slowed down star running back Reggie Bush and the decline in production is evident in his stat line over the course of the first six games. Against Oakland and New York, Bush averaged over six yards a carry however once the team wrapped up a win against St. Louis, that total dropped to under two yards per carry. The extra rest will do Bush well, in order for the Dolphins offense to have success taking on a stingy Jets defense in one week's time, they will need to have a balanced attack both in the air and on the ground.
With the elevated play from Sean Smith, Nolan Carroll and Reshad Jones in recent weeks, the absence of cornerback Richard Marshall hs gone relatively unnoticed. Marshall, who has been suffering from severe back pains, will provide a boost to an already thin secondary if he is active for week 8. Even though line backer Kevin Burnett played against St. Louis, this is his chance to put a lingering ankle injury behind him. The team that is in need for a No. 3 option at wide reciever may find their answer if Jabar Gaffney is able to make his Dolphins debut at Metlife Stadium.
Looking back at the past few games, it is evident that this Dolphins team has developed a key trait that has been non existent in recent years. Miami has shown the ability to win close games in the fourth quarter with consecutive victories by a total of seven points combined. Considering that the Dolphins lost five games by a total of eleven points a year ago on route to an 0-7 start and 6-10 overall record, there is a sense of refreshing progress from this young squad.
Following two heartbreaking overtime losses this season, Miami closed out a 17-13 win on the road in Cincinnati and hung on for a 17-14 win over the Rams. In most cases, 17 points is not enough to win games in the NFL but the Dolphins have found a way through timely plays by the offense accompanied by a bend, don't break defense. Last week's win was one of the Dolphins worst overall performances of the year as they surrendered 462 total yards, managed only 49 plays on offense and rushed for only 19 yards. Even though they were thourougly dominated, Miami won the game, something that eluded them in the past. The sign of a good team, a playoff and Super Bowl contender, is the knack for winning close games even when they are outplayed. While the Dolphins are not yet elite, they are playing with a sense of urgency right now and for that reason, they may find themselves playing meaningful football in December.
With an even record, the Dolphins must approach the first game after the bye like it is a brand new season. The mood has finally changed in Miami among the ownership, coaches, players and fans, everyone in the organization believes they can win each and every week. The timing of this bye couldn't have been any better with the Dolphins playing some of their best football while giving them the opportunity to rest for their first road divisional game of the season.
If all goes well around the AFC East this NFL Sunday, the Dolphins many find themselves in sole possession of second without even playing a game.