Yes, the Dolphins are 6-4. Yes, the team is on a five game winning streak. Yes, the offense has recently come through when absolutely necessary. Yes, the defense has been a bend don’t break defense. Yes, the team is on the cusp of fighting for a wildcard position. Still, there are reasons for pessimism.
After the first four games of the season, I wrote an article stating that, despite the Dolphins’ 1-3 record, there were reasons to be optimistic, including the team producing results as expected, four consecutive home games, flashes of improvement, and Adam Gase. Now, with the Miami Dolphins on a five game winning streak and entering the playoff conversation, I am writing this article to similarly bring reality to the Dolphins’ current winning streak and playoff prospects for this season.
First, the Dolphins are among the NFL offenses having the hardest time converting on third down. Against the Rams just last week, the Dolphins failed to convert a single third down until the second-to-last drive of the game. Overall, the Dolphins converted a paltry 9% of their third downs against the Rams and have converted just 33.63% over the course of the season (which ranks 29th in the NFL). While such a performance might allow the team to sneak by the Rams, it is a recipe for disaster against playoff-caliber teams.
Second, the Dolphins are among the worst NFL defenses in terms of opponents’ time of possession. Last week, the Rams possessed the ball for 52% of the game. Overall, the Dolphins allow their opponents to possess the ball 53.34% of the time (which ranks 28th in the NFL). Allowing teams to possess the ball longer and tire out the defense is not a formula for success.
Third, the Dolphins are among the most penalized teams in the NFL. Even worse, of the Dolphins’ 80 penalties that have been accepted, 10 of them were for roughing the passer or unnecessary roughness. Overall, the Dolphins’ 80 accepted penalties have cost the team 766 yards and all too often occur on third or fourth down to extend opponents’ drives. This is far different than the Dolphins’ teams that have historically led the league for fewest penalties (an NFL high 13 times, including 9 seasons in a row).
In sum, an offense that cannot stay on the field and succeed, a defense that cannot get off the field, and a team that helps its opponents with frequent and untimely penalties is not the formula for continued success. Yet, the Dolphins find themselves in the midst of a five game winning streak and possible playoff conversation. Unless the Dolphins reverse their ways, however, the winning simply will not continue.
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Despite these drawbacks, there continues to be reason to believe in Adam Gase. Early in the season, he showed that he will not be influenced by a player’s prior experiences, salary, or draft status. During this winning streak, he has shown that his players will continue to fight with him to the end, regardless of how the game has gone to that point. Furthermore, in expressing confidence in Ryan Tannehill earlier this week, you have a head coach who believes in his players and will support them even when they struggle. You have to be optimistic about such a Head Coach over the long term. As a fan, I hope that Coach Gase and the team can prove wrong my pessimism regarding this winning streak and its playoff prospects. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to the Dolphins and Dolphins’ fans!