Though they are currently on the outside looking in, the Miami Dolphins could be the predator when it comes to the playoff race. They've managed to keep their heads, and their record above water at 6-5 despite injuries to the starting, and second string quarterbacks, and now, star off season acquisition Brandon Marshall. The team hasn't even gotten its best performances from its running game either, which is their bread and butter; yet still they cling to post season life. An individual tail back is yet to post a 100 yard rushing game all season. In 2009 back up Ricky Williams had four, and injury prone Ronnie Brown added a pair. Those numbers have not even come close to being replicated in 2010, but it hasn't slowed the Dolphins down at all.
In fact, they are on pace to have a better season this year than last season. Why? Here are a few reasons.
They are 5-1 on the road: They've decorated that category with wins at Green Bay, Oakland, Minnesota, and Tennessee. If the Fins could only be descent at Dolphin's Stadium, they would be one of the better teams in the AFC. But with the Jets and Patriots being inconveniently located within their division, this is unlikely to occur.
They play great defense: Sixth overall in total defense, and fourth against the pass. In an age where in the NFL the gunslingers dominate the offensive attack, Miami is one of few teams that have figured it out. Permitting just over 201 yards per competition, opposing quarterbacks struggle not only to make explosive plays deep down field, but struggle to move the chains also. Miami has managed 27 sacks in 11 games, 11 of those sacks courtesy of up and coming linebacker Cameron Wake. Free agent signee Karlos Dansby leads the way with 80 tackles.
They have not had stability under center: But they still find ways to put wins in the books. Though the current train of thought is that Tyler Thigpen, with his 21 career games of experience, is not the answer to a playoff run, injured Opening day starter Chad Henne has done a much better job. This team so desperately needs him to play at a high level to have a chance. Having a healthy Brandon Marshall, who can be one of, if not the best receiver in the game at times, would help too.
Don't look for Miami to get their first 100 yard rushing game against Cleveland on Sunday. The Browns have limited the number of opposing running backs that have gone over the century mark against them.
The Key for Browns is to be multi-dimensional against the Dolphins defense. They play extremely well against the pass, which would lead them to focus in on Peyton Hillis. If the Browns allow them to do that, offensively, they don't stand much of a chance. But this young Brown's receiving core acknowledges that they have to become more of an integral part of the team's offense for more offensive production. The Dolphins, on the other hand, need to get a push up front at the line of scrimmage to increase their winning hopes. Nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin and Shaun Rogers have been penetrating the line, stuffing the run before it even happens. Miami loves to run the ball; they are better off running to the outsides and in the flat.
This will physically be a grind for both teams, as their future battle wounds will clarify. But it is one where the Browns can pull it out, hoping for two in a row.