The Miami Dolphins are not going to win the Super Bowl this year. I'm pretty confident in making that statement. However, that does not mean the Dolphins are a bad team. It simply means they are not the top team in the league. Apparently, the mainstream media, who derided the Dolphins all preseason, are starting to realize, maybe this team is not that bad.
A month ago today, I went on ESPN 1040 in Tampa to speak about the Dolphins. I said at the time, I predicted Miami to be an 8-8 team and be in contention for a playoff game, but I would consider 6-8 wins a success this year, as Miami prepared for next season. As I went off the air, the show's hosts seemed stunned that I would say anything near six wins in 2012 for the Dolphins.
On ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning show, both Greeny and Golic picked the Dolphins to go 5-10 this season. ESPN AFC East Blogger James Walker wrote, "There are too many changes all across the board for Miami to be a legitimate threat." John Clayton focused on the fact that Ryan Tannehill won the starting quarterback job based on David Garrard's knee surgery and Matt Moore's "average training camp" to predict the Dolphins will end the season in the AFC East basement.
Adam Schefter agreed with Clayton's fourth place finish for the Dolphins, while ESPN.com writer Jeffri Chadiha concluded that the "Dolphins are at least two years away from being competitive." Ashley Fox from ESPN.com also expected the Dolphins to finish fourth in the division.
And, it wasn't just ESPN that hated Miami. Walter Football gave the Dolphins the third worst record in the league, with a 3-13 season. Eric Golub wrote in The Washington Times that Miami would be 3-13. Greg Rosenthal at NFL.com agreed with the 3-13 record.
Even around SB Nation, the Dolphins were hated. How many videos have been published in which Ryan Tannehill was the butt of a joke? How many times were the Dolphins kicked because people thought they were down. Blogs were predicting doom for Miami, like Stampede Blue's 4-12 record prediction for Miami. Or, SB Nation Houston's 2-14 prediction.
The Dolphins' appearance on HBO's Hard Knocks this preseason did not help bring any love to Miami. The show really ingrained the "Miami is the worst team ever" mentality that the media seemed to love. The "worst wide receiving corps in the NFL" was shown to be horrible, especially once the team released Chad Johnson. And, once it was on Hard Knocks, it was truth (thus some fans ongoing calls for the Dolphins to bring Chris Hogan back after they released him from the practice squad on September 11).
But now, after five weeks of the season, the media seems to be realizing something is happening in south Florida. The Dolphins are not as bad as people expected. In fact, they are just some Dan Carpenter missed field goals away from being 4-1 and in first place in the AFC East.
Tomorrow, the Dolphins face the St. Louis Rams with a chance to climb back to .500 heading into their bye week. And, they are quickly becoming the team no one wants to face.
Walker wrote yesterday in his AFC East blog, "Five games into the season, I'm already starting to eat those words," referencing his preseason prediction for the Dolphins. "Therefore, it is time to raise expectations in Miami."
Walker concludes his article stating, "I have seen enough in the first five games to expect more from Miami. Anything fewer than eight wins would be a disappointment considering the way the Dolphins are playing and how the Bills and Jets are falling apart."
Barry Wilner, an AP Pro Football Writer, wrote in his picks for this week, "Miami isn't far away from a 4-1 record, has the league's stingiest run defense and has been surprisingly efficient on offense behind rookie QB Ryan Tannehill and a revamped receiving corps."
Bleacher Report got in on the Dolphins love this week as well, looking at ways Miami could reach double digit wins in 2012. "After watching the first five weeks of play, the 2-3 Dolphins could have very easily been sitting atop the AFC East with a 4-1 record right now," Devin Noonan wrote on Thursday.
"Two close overtime losses due to missed field goals set them back, but there's still plenty of games left to make an unexpected playoff run."
Even Bill Simmons over on Grantland is starting to see the good in Miami. In his opening paragraph, Simmons lists the things he trusts in the "five-plus weeks of the NFL season." One of those names the Dolphins as the "prince of the good 'Bad Teams.'"
Later on in his article, Simmons asks, "Why do I keep circling back to the Dolphins when I'm thinking about the AFC playoff picture?"
But, Simmons wasn't done. Besides recommending that you don't "skip the chance to wager on the sneaky-good Dolphins on Sunday against a dome team playing outside that can't throw the ball," as the Dolphins face the Rams tomorrow, Simmons made a side note that maybe sums up the media's sudden turn toward the Dolphins:
Last night, Bill Barnwell and I were e-mailing back and forth about how dumb it was that Mike Tomlin blew the Steelers-Titans game with that reckless 54-yard field-goal attempt instead of just taking his chances in overtime. I mentioned being "out" on the Steelers this year; Barnwell came back with them still being the fourth-best AFC team, almost by default. That's when I realized that - on a neutral field, with my life depending on the outcome, if the game were played within the next 10 days - I'd pick the 2012 Broncos and 2012 Dolphins over the 2012 Steelers. We will see.
It may not be all of the media, and the Dolphins may not see this love last if they can't put away the Rams in Miami tomorrow. But, at least for a few days, some of the media seems to have noticed that the Dolphins are not a horrible team. Hopefully they will prove Simmons right and pass the 2012 Steelers. And the Jets, Bills, and seven other teams to get a playoff spot - or at least have a shot at one.