So what's the best way to get over 2 tough losses in a row? You look ahead.
So that's what we're going to do. Let's begin our coverage of Sunday's big rivalry game against the 5-1 Buffalo Bills. Wow - how weird does that sound? But hey, they've earned it.
Below is a look at 5 key questions that the Dolphins will have to address if they want to knock off the Bills on Sunday.
Where's the intensity?
One of the things I really love about this team is how they've played with a fire and intensity - especially on the defensive side of the ball - that we haven't seen out of a Miami Dolphins team in quite some time. But last week, coming off of a truly heartbreaking loss in Houston, the Dolphins lacked that fire. They quite frankly looked flat and, at times, like the same old Miami Dolphins. The Ravens came out and hit the Fins right in the mouth. The Dolphins didn't respond.
Now it's up to the coaches to get this team fired up. Many of these players are new to the AFC East - so they won't just get fired up simply because this is a rivalry game. Coming off of two consecutive losses, the Dolphins must find that fire - and that swagger - that they had heading into New England despite suffering two losses to start the season. Those are the Dolphins that we all hope to see. And that's the team that can pull off a victory over the 5-1 Bills - not the team we saw last week.
Can the Dolphins get the ground game going?
One way to win this game will be for the Dolphins to get their rushing attack back on track and keep Buffalo's offense - which ranks in the top 10 in points per game - off the field. The past 2 weeks, the Dolphins have averaged just 83.5 yards rushing. In the 2 previous games (both wins), the Fins averaged 191.5 yards on the ground. So tell me: what's the key to Miami's offense?
The fact of the matter is that Chad Pennington is good, but he won't win you games - at least not with the receivers he has to work with. The Dolphins must find a way to get the ground game kick started. That will be priority #1 this week and will really be the key to whether or not the Dolphins can win this football game.
Will anybody help Joey Porter out?
Remember how this Dolphin defense seemed to actually have a decent pass rush, outside of Joey Porter, back during the first 3 games? Things have changed.
Over the past 3 weeks, the Dolphins have just 2 sacks that do not involve Porter - 1.5 for Matt Roth and 0.5 for Vonnie Holliday. Meanwhile, the Bills are led by a young, but very talented QB who is playing as well as any QB in the entire league right now. The Dolphins cannot allow Trent Edwards to just sit back in the pocket and find open receivers. And we all know that, based on how this secondary has played, there will be open receivers.
This makes it imperative for the Dolphins to get pressure on Edwards. Remember, he's only started 15 career games. Young quarterbacks make mistakes when under pressure - no matter how good they are. So who steps up and helps out J-Peezy?
Can the Dolphins please contain Lee Evans?
So we all know that this Dolphins secondary is not very good. And that's why Sunday could get ugly if Lee Evans isn't contained. He's been the ultimate Dolphins-killer over his 4 year career. In just 8 career games against the Fins, Evans has 25 catches for 554 yards and 8 touchdowns. Yes, he averages a TD per game against Miami. In fact, Evans actually averages roughly a TD every 3 catches against the Dolphins while holding a ridiculous 22.2 yards per reception average. Evans is the prototypical "big-play" receiver. But seriously, enough is enough.
I'm tired of seeing Evans running free behind Miami's entire defense. Something has to change and it's going to be up to this coaching staff to figure out exactly how to contain him.
Will special teams ever really be "special"?
Last week was hopefully the beginning of a beautiful thing: Ted Ginn as our kick returner. While he wasn't spectacular, the Dolphins average starting field position on his 5 kick returns last week was their own 38 yard line. Not bad considering he averaged only 18 yards per return. But that's because of how teams actually respect - and maybe even fear - Teddy's speed and return ability. And field position aside, we also all know that Ginn can certainly break one and take it to the house. Sunday would be a good time for his first of the season, wouldn't it?
But this isn't just about Teddy's ability to return kicks. Another problem has been Brandon Fields and his inability to place his punts where they need to be placed. Despite his 44.8 yard average, his net average is just 34.5 yards. This is due to too many touchbacks when he has the chance to pin the opposing team deep and his tendency to kick line drives, which allow opposing returners to have an opportunity to make a play against Miami's poor coverage unit. And this week, Roscoe Parrish - the league's 2nd best punt returner (averaging 14.3 yards per return and already having taken 1 for a TD) - comes to town.
Call me crazy, but I get the feeling that special teams will have a direct impact on this game. Let's hope it's Teddy and not Roscoe who is the one doing the impacting.
So those are my 5 questions of the week. Your thoughts, as always, are wanted below...