After two road games in hostile environments, the Dolphins have the AFC East right where they want them. Obviously, being in first place by a game is nice, but kind of irrelevant at the same time this early in the year. A little cushion some may argue, but there is no time to begin to feel comfortable. The Jets and Patriots come to town in the next two weeks.
The Jets on Sunday Night Football in Week 3, and the Patriots on Monday Night Football in Week 4. Right here, right now, the Dolphins can grip a choke-hold on the AFC East, in front of the whole nation. Just about everyone had the Dolphins finishing third in the division before the season started. Still, after a 2-0 start, and after knocking off the Vikings on the road, most probably still suspect that the Dolphins are a few paces behind the Jets and Patriots. They're just not as talented some may argue. They barely beat the Bills, and Brett Favre gift-wrapped them that upset win others will say. But nonetheless, the AFC East will have to go through Miami.
Obviously, the final standings won't be decided in Weeks 3 and 4, there will still be 12 weeks of football yet to be played. But a golden opportunity presents itself for the Dolphins. They can't win the division, but they can surely pull away from the pack. If the Jets and Pats want to avoid that, and keep this division a tight race, they have to go to Miami and knock off the Dolphins.
Where else would this football team rather be right now? Two home games, both on prime time, to cease control of a division this coaching staff puts so much emphasis on winning. Talk about taking the nation by storm, you think anybody is going to disrespect the Dolphins if they are setting on top of the AFC East at 4-0 with wins over the Vikings, Jets, and Patriots? This could be their division, their time, their defining stretch of the season.
How can they not be the favorites in both games? We know the Jets are the media's darling, but come on, the Dolphins beat them twice last year, and they are surely capable of at least beating them at home this time around. The Patriots on the other hand, still have Tom Brady, but how beatable did they look the other night?
The Dolphins have the right defense for New England's offense. We saw the Jets beat them with pressure, as did teams in years past, like the Giants in the Super Bowl for example. What is Mike Nolan's scheme good at right now? Getting after quarterbacks. Nobody, can block Cameron Wake, and I mean nobody. Remember the hit on Brady that forced the game winning interception last year? Yep, that was Wake. But now he isn't being limited to only passing downs. The Earth Wake will be in there just about every play.
Nolan has got to be saving his playbook for these two games too. We've seen glimpses of the exotic looks and blitzes he has, but I have a feeling we won't see them unleashed until these two contest. Similarly, Dan Henning is saving the good stuff on the offensive side of the ball for now. We will see more of the wildcat, maybe even a pass from Ronnie, and we should see, dare I say it, Chad Henne really air it out and test a reportedly Revisless Jets' secondary and a suspect Pats' secondary.
We have been talking about this team taking the next step all offseason. We know they can be good, but can they be great? Can they really be the class of one of the toughest divisions in football? Can they really emerge as a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Can Chad Henne grow up in front of our eyes, and put to rest any doubts that he isn't this team's franchise quarterback? We shouldn't have to wait long for some answers. The opportunity is here. Will the Dolphins answer the call?