Monday, December 29, 2008

Playoff-Bound Miami Takes AFC East Title

From last season to this season it seems as though not much has changed for the Miami Dolphins...they only took the "1" in the number "15" and carried it over to the win column - putting them at 11-5. Now that's "Change We Can Believe In." What is unbelievable is how such a drastic turn of events can occur in one simple season. The Miami Dolphins have tied the 1999 Indianapolis Colts for the biggest turnaround in NFL history by improving by 10 wins. This season has definitely had Miami fans "partying like it's 1999."

Beyond what the Dolphins did for themselves, let's not forget what they did for other teams. The Fins knocked off the New England Patriots (a team that was in the Super Bowl last season) from playoff contention and denied the New York Jets any chance of making the post season (although the Baltimore Ravens made it statistically impossible for them first).

It seems too good to be true when you look back at it: The Dolphins are coming off a 1-15 season, The New York Jets get Brett Favre, the Patriots were as competitive as ever, and then things began to swing in Miami's way. The Dolphins pick up Chad Pennington, ranked as one of the best pass completion percentage QBs in NFL history. The Offensive Coordinator for the Fins implements a "Wildcat offense" that works miracles throughout most of the season, and the other teams in the AFC East begin to struggle. You can't ask for much more than that if you're a Miami fan. I truly believe that what changed this team's fate was not just talent, but mentality - The Parcells/Sparano administration has incited a philosophy of "No Nonsense Football" where each game is played with integrity and determination. The Dolphins were at the top of the league in lowest penalties and lowest turnovers. Now that's what you can call "No Nonsense."

Looking forward to the playoffs, Baltimore will not be an easy team to defeat. It will be an identical rematch of the 2001 playoff game versus Baltimore and Miami in Dolphins Stadium. The Dolphins lost that game, but that was then and this is now. A new roster, a new coaching staff, a new attitude. It's true what their advertising campaign said all along: "A New Beginning."

I expect a defensive showdown between both defensive units - Joey Porter versus Ray Lewis, Yeremiah Bell versus Ed Reed, and the list goes on. It will probably be a low scoring game unless one of the teams finds a weakness in the opponent's defense - hard to believe but it can happen. The keys to winning this game for the Dolphins will be to control the time of possession (keep the Raven's defense on the field and tire them out) as well as limit turnovers and force turnovers on the Ravens. We may not have a clue about the outcome of the game, but we can be assured that it will be a tough battle for both teams and that the fans will get their money's worth.

In retrospect, the regular season was one that will go down in Dolphins history. It was a picture perfect story with a Kodak moment ending. Who would have thought up a story that ended with a showdown between the Dolphins and the Jets - on one side stood Brett Favre and his drive to prove he can play once again and on the other Chad Pennington and his desire for redemption against his old team. In this singular moment in NFL History a lot was proven: 1) The Fins proved that no goal is too difficult to accomplish, 2) Chad Pennington proved that you don't need Brett Favre to be a playoff contender, and 3) The NFL revealed how easily you can rise and fall from one season to another - where once the Patriots stood atop the AFC East now the Dolphins stand. It truly is a story too good to make up.

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