What if...? Should we have...? Why didn't we....? Why did we...?
We sure do have a lot of questions. I don't think that's a bad thing, though. I think that's symptomatic of a fan base with high expectations, and a team that is, seemingly, not reaching those standards.
But, hey, at least we aren't the Cowboys, right?
Anyway, getting back to the Dolphins, the real question is where should this team be instead of where we think they should be. Think back to the pre-season. We all talked about it when the schedule was published. The first half of the season was a Murderer's Row of teams.
After traveling to Buffalo, we faced the two conference runners up from last year, followed by the AFC East Division Champion. After the bye week, the Dolphins would travel to Green Bay to face a team that went 11&5 and claimed one of the NFC wildcard spots last year.
Then the Dolphins would play only their second non-playoff team from last year, when facing the Pittsburgh Steelers. Only two of Miami's first six games were against non-playoff teams from 2009 - with one of those being the Pittsburgh Steelers and their dominating defense.
The fun part? Miami's next two games (at Cincinnati and at Baltimore), continue that trend - resulting in two of their first eight games being non-playoff teams.
Ouch and ouch!
And, technically, the Dolphins only had the 16th hardest schedule in the league prior to the start of the season. The Dolphins opponents had a combined 2009 record of 128&128. You can really thank a 5&11 Oakland, a 5&11 Cleveland, and a 2&14 Detroit for skewing those numbers.
But, when, prior to the season, we all looked at Miami's first six games, and really consider what could happen, it was clear, a 3&3 start was a strong possibility. I would have predicted a Buffalo win, a Minnesota loss, a New York Jets win, a Patriots loss (okay, maybe I would have said a win here, since it was in Miami - but maybe not), and then I would have probably split the Green Bay and Pittsburgh games.
The result? A 3&3 record - maybe 4&2 at the most.
So, where should my expectations - and maybe all of our expectations - have been?
The difference between then and now, however, is how this team has played. They should have won the Pittsburgh game (fumble recovery or not - they should have won).
In the New England game, Chad Henne had more completions than Tom Brady had attempts. Henne threw for twice as many yards as Brady. The Dolphins had 400 yards of total offense, compared to the Patriots' 265. Miami dominated the first half of the game - only to watch it all go down the drain in the second half. Chad Henne threw 3 interceptions; Tyler Thigpen came into the game to join the pick party, throwing one himself. Special teams were anything but, with a kickoff return for a touchdown, a blocked punt, and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. Miami could have, and probably should have, won this game - but found ways to ensure New England left Joe Dolphins Pro Shark Life Stadium with the W.
Against the Jets, Henne once again was the higher statistical QB, with 26 completions for 363 yards compared to 15 for 256 for Sanchez. Once again, the Dolphins out gained the Jets, this time 436 yards to 402 yards. Yet, Miami once again lost.
Now, take into consideration that the Packers game could, just as easily, been a loss instead of a win, and this Dolphins team could be looking at a 6&0, 5&1, or 4&2 record. Instead, they sit at 3&3, two games out of the AFC East lead, and a game-and-a-half out of the Wild Card - with eight AFC teams having a better record than the Dolphins.
So, yes, there is a reason to feel the Dolphins should be better.
But, when you stop and look at the entire picture, coming out of the first 6 weeks 3&3 isn't as bad as we all think it is. There's still a ton of football to play. Miami's schedule does eventually get easier. As long as they are able to tread water for through the next few games, they very easily could make a late season run at the Wild Card or AFC East.
They just need the ball, and a few calls, to bounce their way.
1. New York Jets (Last Week: 2) - This hurts. Seriously. But, they are playing some great football.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (1) - Sorry Steelers. With that call to win the game against Miami, you don't get to keep the top spot this week.
3. New England Patriots (3) - Randy Moss is in New England. But he is playing for Minnesota. I don't know if this is 2000 or 2010.
4. Atlanta Falcons (5) - Hey Roddy White - thanks for making me lose in TWO fantasy leagues!
5. Baltimore Ravens (6) - Not a great performance against a winless team - having to go to Overtime to beat the Bills
6. Indianapolis Colts (7) - Move up a spot thanks to Saints loss. No other reason.
7. Houston Texans (9) - Monday Night Football against an injured Colts team could be great. The 32nd ranked pass defense against Peyton Manning could be a problem.
8. Tennessee Titans (10) - Kerry Collins beat Kevin Kolb in the battle of 2nd string, maybe 1st string, no second string, really, I promise, but, they could be 1st string quarterbacks.
9. New York Giants (11) - This team showed no passion and no desire early this season. Looks like they fixed that.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (12) - Finished their AFC South swing with a win against Jacksonville.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (8) - Kevin Kolb lost to Kerry Collins in the battle of 2nd string, maybe 1st string, no second string, really, I promise, but, they could be 1st string quarterbacks.
12. Miami Dolphins (14) - They should have gotten the ball. They should have never let it come down to that. But, either way, they played well against the Steelers.
13. Green Bay Packers (16) - The Packers finally beat Brett Favre in Lambeau. That still sounds odd.
14. Washington Redskins (15) - Win in Chicago keeps the Redskins slowly climbing the rankings. They don't win pretty - but they win.
15. New Orleans Saints (4) - They didn't lose to the Browns. They got decimated by the Browns. Probably could be anywhere from 11-16, but they land at 15 this week.
16. Chicago Bears (13) - Back-to-back losses continue slide for NFC North leaders. Maybe someone should remind Jay Cutler every now-and-then which jersey color they are wearing that week.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (18) - I don't know if Tampa deserves to be at spot #17, but I'm not sure anyone else does either.
18. Minnesota Vikings (17) - Brett Favre is hurt and, could miss next week's game. Or, he could play. But, he might be out. And, there's a chance he could play. Either way, this should probably be Tavaris Jackson's team.
19. Seattle Seahawks (26) - 4&2, leading your division, and you are the #19 team. That's either no respect, or you rare leading the NFC West.
20. Arizona Cardinals (19) - Kurt Warner to Anquan Boldin seems like eons ago.
21. St. Louis Rams (20) - One point loss to Tampa Bay drops the Rams to one game below .500. Otherwise, this team is actually right in the hunt in the NFC West.
22. Oakland Raiders (29) - Destruction of the Broncos in Denver suddenly reminds everyone that Oakland does have a football team.
23. Cincinnati Bengals (21) - On paper, this team should be pretty good. Too bad the season isn't figured out on paper.
24. Cleveland Browns (25) - I took a ton of flak for putting the Browns as high as I did last week. Defeating the Saints should quiet some of that.
25. San Diego Chargers (23) - Where would you put the Chargers?
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (24) - Ugly loss, but it was in Arrowhead, so I'll give them a little, tiny bit of the doubt. But, this team is a mess.
27. Dallas Cowboys (27) - Speaking of messes...oh, hey, it's the World Series!
28. Denver Broncos (22) - Maybe playing in England will wake-up the Broncos.
29. Detroit Lions (30) - Slowly...ever so slowly....the Lions are moving up.
30. Carolina Panthers (31) - Beat the 49ers to win the race to not be the last winless team.
31. San Francisco 49ers (28) - Re-read Denver's write up and change it to "the 49ers."
32. Buffalo Bills (32) - Had some fireworks against the Ravens....but still winless.
Targets of Opportunity
- Did anyone else catch Tom Brady on one of the network's pre-game show (I think it was NFLN, but I'm not 100% on that). In their discussion on the new league emphasis on helmet-to-helmet contact, Brad's quote was, "We all signed up for this game know it was tough." Really Tom? You remember that whole "Brady Rule" the league passed because of your knee? I don't think you get to argue that this game is "tough" and everyone knows it before they start playing.
- Interesting coincidence on the non-fumble recovery - pointed out by Mike Bernandino of the South Florida Sun-Seninel. We all know Referee Gene Steratore is from Pittsburgh, right? Well, what about Field Judge Bob Waggoner and Head Linesman Jerry Bergman? Oh, also from Pittsburgh.
- Another interesting coincidence Bernandino noticed. So, as Steratore headed to the replay booth, Mike Tomlin mentioned to Line Judge Ron Marinucci that it might be tough to determine who recovered the fumble. Marinucci then ran over to Steratore to remind him of the NFL rule that they had to have clear video evidence to rule who recovered it, even though everyone knew who had it. Why is this interesting? Because here's a good picture of Marinucci we, as Dolphins fans, might remember. That's right. Marinucci is the same line judge who, while staring right at the play, ruled Darren Sharper to have scored a touchdown on his interception return last year, even though it was clearly a fumble.
- Apparently at practice this week the Dolphins are playing around with their punt return schemes. They had Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Marshall returning kicks during practice. It will probably turn out to be nothing, but interesting that Marshall was being used.
- Here's a quick NFL.com story about Jared Odrick and his reaction in getting placed on IR. Seems like he is taking it well, and looking forward to getting back on the field next year.