It might be crazy to think that Sunday's game against the Saints is the Dolphins' "defining game" of the first half of their season. It might be a bit of a reach. But then again, it just might be completely accurate.
Think about this for a moment. The Saints are universally considered to now be one of the top three teams in the NFL. They will come to Miami with an undefeated 5-0 record and with the top ranked total offense and top ranked scoring offense. Defensively, the Saints have a top ten total defense and scoring defense. And last week, the Saints simply demolished another top five team when they made the New York Giants look like they didn't even belong on the same field - scoring 48 points and running up 493 total yards of offense against what was ranked as the number one overall defense in the league coming into week six.
Want another nice tidbit about the Saints? The Saints have never trailed in a game so far this year. Not once. Not even for a second.
With all that said, just think about what a win by the Dolphins would do. If you knock off the team that has been the most dominant through six weeks, you make a statement. Suddenly, the Dolphins wouldn't just be another .500 football team. They'd be much more. Says guard Justin Smiley:
"You beat a team like this, it does everything for you. It kind of validates where you are as a football team."
"It either says, ‘we have a long way to go,’ or you win the game and you realize you’re headed in the right direction."
We can also sit here and talk about the bigger picture as well. A win gets the Dolphins back to .500 after a tough 0-3 start. It also keeps the Dolphins within one game (in the loss column) of the division leading Patriots. More importantly, a loss would drop the Dolphins to 2-4 with games in New York (well, New Jersey, but whatever) and New England to follow. In a season where it will likely take at least 10 wins to get into the playoffs, losing a fourth game just seven weeks into the season would obviously hurt any possible playoff chances.
But this game is even bigger than the "big picture." It's a chance for the Dolphins to define themselves. More specifically, it's a chance for this much maligned secondary to prove that they really aren't as bad as the stats show - which, for the record, is 18th in pass defense and 31st in yards allowed per pass attempt.
You know what? This unit really isn't that bad. Sean Smith has looked very good. Vontae Davis has looked nearly as good, though he's gotten caught making rookie mistakes a few times. And Will Allen seems to be getting beat less and less as the weeks go by - though he's still not playing up to his ability.
These guys in the secondary, though, are well aware that they are going to be a focal point on Sunday. And Sean Smith is excited about that:
"You definitely love when a team is going to challenge you through the air. It gives us a chance to make plays on the ball and show what you can do."
"I would never line up saying, 'God, I hope they run the ball.' That's just something I don't do."
"I love when the ball's in the air. We're corners. We're the secondary. This is what we're here for. When the ball's in the air, it's ours for the taking.''
On Sunday, Smith and his fellow cornerbacks will certainly have plenty of opportunities. They will be asked to indeed show what they can do. And when all is said and done, the fate of the game could rest on their shoulders. Might the fate of the rest of the season rest on them as well?
Maybe. One thing I know for sure, though, is that a win by the Dolphins and suddenly this team's possibilities would en endless.