We're all very excited about where this Dolphins team stands and how far the team has come in just a half of a year. But now the 2nd half of the season is upon us and the playoffs are in this team's sights.
So let's turn our attention to Sunday's game against the Seahawks and talk about 5 questions that I have that will be answered on Sunday:
Can the Dolphins win a game that they are expected to win?
There really is nothing like being the underdog and winning a football game that many people expect you to lose. And that's what the Dolphins have done for their 4 wins this season. Now, however, the Dolphins face a different challenge. The Seahawks, who are just 2-6 and are injury-riddled, will be flying across the country to play these Dolphins. And for the first time in a long, long time, the Dolphins are 8.5 point point favorites to win this game. Can anybody remember when the last time was that a Dolphins team was favored to win by so many points?
That's the challenge that lies ahead for these Dolphins. They've gotten themselves into the middle of the playoff race at the midway point of the season. But they can't let up. They can't get tripped up in one of these "trap games" leading up to the game in two weeks against the Patriots. And Tony Sparano says it best:
''I want to see absolute attention to detail and focus right now. We've been down this road before. We've won two games and we kind of drank the Kool-Aid a little bit and then we lost two of them. Now we've won a couple, so we can't do that. We can't worry about everybody telling us `what a good job you did' right now. We need to keep our head down and really keep swinging.''
On Sunday, we'll see how the team responds to this particular situation.
Is this the week that the running game finally gets going again?
This was one of the hot topics last week. Most of us thought that last week against Denver's poor run defense that the Dolphins would finally get back to having success on the ground. But the Broncos made it a point to stop Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Luckily, Chad Pennington was up to the task.
But at some point, the Dolphins are going to have to be able to consistently move the ball on the ground. Will it be this week? The Seahawks' defense does rank 21st against the run, allowing 115 yards per game. But they only surrender 3.8 yards per carry (tied for 10th) and allowed Brian Westbrook to pick up just 61 yards on 20 carries last week. So it's not going to be an easy task for Ronnie and Ricky - but it's an important one nonetheless.
Is Joey Porter going to "vent" this week...in a big way?
We've all heard Brandon Marshall's response to Joey Porter's remarks about Brandon. He called Porter "soft" - among other things. It was kind of peculiar considering Porter's team had just defeated Brandon's and Joey even picked up another sack - giving him 11.5 on the season. But Porter did just miss on at least 2 more sacks - just coming up short and giving Jay Cutler enough time to get the pass off. And those missed sacks could prove to be costly in terms of Peezy's chance at the sack record (22.5).
As it stands now, Porter is on pace for 23. But a big outing on Sunday for Porter would be key in his chase. The Seahawks rank in the middle of the pack in terms of sacks allowed (17) but did surrender 4 last week to the Eagles. Call me crazy, but I get the feeling that the Seahawks aren't going to be happy with Marshall for "poking the bear" and calling out Porter. I'm looking for Porter to flex his "popcorn muscles" - as Brandon called them - all game long on Sunday and take out his anger on the poor Seahawks' quarterback.
Can the Dolphins continue to stuff the run?
We saw a dominating performance by this Miami front seven last week against a Broncos team that was averaging over 5 yards per carry on the season. They owned Denver's offensive line. This week against Seattle, stopping the run is going to be even more important.
The Seahawks have the 12th ranked rushing offense, averaging 114 yards per game on the ground. Last week against the Eagles, Maurice Morris and Julius Jones combined for 84 yards on 18 carries (4.6 ypc). It will be critical for the Dolphins to again stuff the opposition's ground game, therefore forcing Seneca Wallace (who will likely start again for the injured Matt Hasselbeck) to throw the ball 25 to 30 times. Wallace has just 7 career starts and can be erratic with his throws. But if the Dolphins allow the Seahawks to run the ball, their offense can be much more dangerous. Making Seattle one-dimensional on Sunday will be a key.
Which receiver will step up this week?
It's funny how this team has really used a "receiver by committee" kind of strategy. Each week, it seems like a new receiver and/or tight end steps up in the passing game to make crucial plays. Last week it was Greg Camarillo. Two weeks ago, it was Ted Ginn. Anthony Fasano has stepped up here and there. David Martin hasn't had a full game where he stood out, but has had his moments. And even the backs - especially Patrick Cobbs - has had a big game.
So who is it going to be this week? Will it be one of the expected (Camarillo, Ginn, Fasano) or will somebody new step up (Davone Bess, Brandon London)? Personally, I'd love to see what London can do. He made a terrific catch last week in the endzone, but just couldn't get his 2nd foot down. Of course, last year that might have actually been a TD thanks to the "force-out" rule. So might this be London's week to step up?
Whoever it is, let's just hope he makes enough plays in the passing game to help Miami to a relatively stress-free win over a 2-6 Seahawks team.
So those are my 5 burning (and itching and scratching) questions for the week.
Thoughts, as always, below...