So we're now 7 games into the season - and the Tony Sparano era - and I thought it might be fun to examine some of the interesting statistics and decide which is the most surprising. Check out the nominees below and then vote.
Dolphins being 3-4: I know that I wasn't as optimistic as some of you. But the Dolphins have found a way to win football games and are 3-4 through 7 games - with the 3 wins coming against pretty damn good teams (Pats, Chargers, Bills) whose combined winning percentage is currently .591. Entering training camp, I don't think many people saw this coming.
Dolphins having a 2-1 divisional record: The last time the Dolphins won at least 2 divisional games in a season was 2005. In 2006 and 2007, the Dolphins had a combined divisional record of 1-11. But the Fins have found a way to win these divisional contests in 2008 - including a trouncing of the Patriots up in New England.
Dolphins having a +7 turnover differential: This is a really great stat because it takes into account both offensive efficiency and a defense's ability to force turnovers. Last season, the Dolphins had a -7 differential. This year's +7 differential is tied for 2nd in the NFL, only one behind the Titans. The last time the Dolphins finished a season in the top 10 in turnover differential? 2003 - with a +2 differential.
Dolphins having the 9th ranked offense in NFL: Last season, the Dolphins ranked 28th in the league in offense, averaging just 287.5 yards per game. But in 2008, the Dolphins average 350.1 ypg and are currently ranked 9th. When was the last time the Dolphins had a top 10 offense? You'd have to go back to 1995, when the Fins ranked 8th and averaged 357.2 ypg.
Chad Pennington's success: One of the main reasons the Dolphins offense has been so good is because of who is under center. Chad Pennington has had a surprisingly good first 7 games as a Dolphin. His 1,710 yards passing ranks him 9th and he has a QB rating of 100.5 - 5th in the league. Projecting his stats out across 16 games puts him on pace for 3,900 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, and just 7 interceptions. His previous career high for passing yards in a season? 3,352. If he can keep up this pace, he'll be headed to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.
Defense ranked 9th in sacks: Remember back when the Dolphins traded Jason Taylor and many people were wondering where the Dolphins pass rush would come from? Anyone still worrying about that? Joey Porter has led a fierce pass rush this season. And thanks to his remarkable 10.5 sacks, the Dolphins are ranked 9th in the NFL with 17. Last year with Jason Taylor, the Dolphins only finished the season with 30 - which was 9th lowest total in the league.
The production from Anthony Fasano and David Martin: Who would have thought the Dolphins would get this kind of production out of their tight ends? Fasano's stat line is 19-251-3, all of which being career highs. In fact, Fasano only had 28 career receptions heading into this season. Meanwhile, Martin (18-253-1) was supposed to be an impact last season when the previous regime signed him in free agency. But he disappointed. This year, despite being the #2 tight end in this offense, Martin is more than halfway to his '07 reception figure (34) and just 50 yards away from setting a new career high in receiving yards - which he set last year.
Defense's ability to stop the run: One of the best stats to judge how good a team is at stopping the run is yards-per-carry allowed. In 2007, the Dolphins ranked 29th, surrendering 4.5 ypc. But in 2008, the Dolphins are ranked 8th, allowing just 3.7 ypc. Not bad considering how the Dolphins started off the season, allowing Thomas Jones to gain 101 yards on 22 carries (4.6 ypc).
Yeremiah Bell's production: Bell has had a very good start to his '08 season - and much better than his '07. Despite coming off of a torn Achilles', Bell leads the team in tackles, with 55. That's the 3rd highest total among all defensive backs in the NFL and is just 13 shy of his career high. He is also tied for the league lead in forced fumbles (3). Could Bell be a potential Pro-Bowler? Possibly.
So tell us all what you think. Vote for what you feel is the biggest surprise thus far in 2008 and then comment below...