Miami Dolphins fans, stay seated — this is going to shock the system for what’s been a perpetually mediocre franchise, one that has mastered the art of building a ball of hope only to launch a full-on nuclear attack at its core when fans least expect it.
But in wake of a four-game winning streak, this team is the sixth best squad in the NFL, per Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA metric. I repeat: the Miami Dolphins are not only back in the playoff picture, in the No. 7 slot in the AFC, but there is immense reason for prolonged hope.
Miami is sandwiched between two 7-2 teams in the Patriots and Raiders:
Their metrics represents team efficiency ratings, a play-by-play breakdown comparing a team’s performance to the league average. Fumble recoveries are rendered useless because it’s a lucky statistic, while the metric as a whole measures “how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games.”
Miami ranks No. 7 in defensive efficiency and No. 16 in offensive efficiency. Football Outsiders’ take:
Five weeks ago, the Miami Dolphins were 1-4 and ranked 28th in DVOA. After a four-game winning streak, the Dolphins are now 5-4 and have climbed all the way up to sixth in DVOA. They were 12th just one week ago, but they put up 66.4% DVOA in the win over San Diego on Sunday. (This is where I would usually put in one of those cool week-to-week graphs were this article not running so massively late because of continued data feed issues.)
Miami is the other team that ranks in the top half of the league with all three units. The Dolphins climb to 16th in offensive DVOA and seventh in defensive DVOA this week. They also rank 10th on special teams. Miami’s rise gives the AFC East three teams in the top 10, something even the AFC West can’t claim (although the NFC East can). The Dolphins are now ahead of the entire AFC West in DVOA; unfortunately for the Dolphins, they aren’t ahead in wins and therefore they aren’t ahead in playoff odds.
For FO’s playoff odds, the Dolphins have rocketed to a near-coin flip scenario of 45.5 percent.
I still think it’s wise to remain grounded when projecting how this team will finish, considering their wins against both the Jets and Chargers were one-score games and Miami scored a non-offensive touchdown in both. But I think it’s time to come to terms that this team is absolutely playing above-average football, despite what their overall season point differential shows (-2).
I was wrong in that they’re not merely just another team. Adam Gase and them boys have provided us with an optimistic outlook for the first time since 2001.
Behind improved offensive line play and a dynamic rushing attack led by Jay Ajai, Ryan Tannehill has been put in consistently winnable situations for the first time in his career. Many of these wins might be by thin margins but you at least get the feeling they have a legitimate chance to pull them out, which hasn’t been the case in over a decade.
For the first time in the NFL’s modern era, Fins Up is an appropriate slogan for this franchise.