I wasn’t planning on it, but the combination of the Dolphins having a bye week and the beating the took Monday night still being fresh in our minds, it was a good week to go on a little vacation from the blog after about ten months straight of posting at least five times a week.
It’s always tough to get through a week after a loss, especially of the blowout variety to a division rival, but unfortunately we have to do it all over again this week. That’s what makes the bye week so difficult. But it probably couldn’t have came at a better time for the Dolphins, after back-to-back letdowns on national television, and with several key players needing to get healthy.
In 2008, the Dolphins followed up their bye week with a huge upset win over the San Diego Chargers, and last year, they jumped out to a shocking 24-3 lead over the eventual Super Bowl champion Saints who had not previously trailed in a game, before getting trounced in the second-half.
Still though, I think it’s safe to say this coaching staff has had this team well prepared with two weeks to practice. And boy do they need a simliar effort this week. This game in Green Bay is the first of a four game stretch that will surely make or break the Dolphins’ season.
I know I said the same thing about the Jets and Pats games, but that was more of an opportunity. These next four games could either doom or save the year. For the Dolphins to keep their heads above water and stay in the division and wildcard races, they need to at least spit these next four games.
Will that be easy? Obviously not with road games in Green Bay, Cinncinnati, and Baltimore and the only home game coming against Pittsburgh, who is arguably the best team in the entire league right now, and that’s been without their two time Super Bowl winning quarterback who is returning next week.
With all that said, though, after watching Green Bay fall to the Redskins yesterday and getting outplayed against the Lions a week ago, this Sunday doesn’t look so impossible anymore. And after watching the Bengals fall apart against two mediocre teams at best the last two weeks, the Dolphins should probably even be the favorites in Cincinnati.
Does that mean it’s time to jump back on the “it’s our year” bandwagon? Of course not. An uphill battle awaits them starting Sunday. But it’s way to early to give up on them. If the Dolphins have the type of character you would expect of a Parcells molded team and a Sparano coached one, you would think they would come out with all kinds of fight in this do or die situation they have put themselves in.
Then again, you would have thought they would have given at least a great effort at home, on Monday Night Football, in a must-win game against New England. Not that this an excuse, but I was sort of under the impression that they had a little bit of a Jets hangover after losing such a well contested game in Week 3.
It was obvious how bad they wanted that game. And when you get so psyched up for such a big game and come out on the short end, it’s very tough to get refocused on your next opponent. Even when that next opponent is the Patriots, in an equally important division showdown.
But now, the Dolphins will not only be fighting to save their season, but playing for pride as well. They know they are better than what we saw these last two weeks, and as fans, we thought they were better than this too. Now, they have to go back and prove themselves all over again.
We can think about what went wrong the last two games all we want, but what’s done is done. Sure, losing to your biggest rivals in back-to-back weeks puts you in a little bit of a hole to dig out of, but these Dolphins have been comeback kids over the past two seasons.
In 2008, they rebounded from a 0-2 start and then a 2-4 start to win 11 games on their way to the division title. Last year, despite the 0-3 start, they fought back into the think of the playoff race up until the last week of the season. And fans are really starting to panic after a 2-2 start?
Yes, expectations are considerably higher this time around, but the season is young, this team has turned it around before, and with an even more talented team, is certainly capable of doing it again. The schedule is less forgiving, but that just makes this even more of an opportunity.
If they can stay right at the .500 level of the next four weeks, they will still be in great shape to make a playoff run as the schedule weakens. Just imagine if they could pull off three wins, or better yet run the table. Not very likely obviously, but it’s not impossible with this team.
We saw great signs from the defense in the first two games, and off and on positive signs from the passing game over the past two weeks. If they could just avoid the huge letdowns on special-teams, which isn’t too much to ask, and put together some collectively solid performances on both sides of the ball, the sky is the limit.
That is a lot of “ifs,” but let’s not forget how far this team has come. Many teams find themselves in obscurity for multiple seasons. The Dolphins were able to rebound pretty quickly. If you would have told me after the 2007 season that an AFC East title was just around the corner, they would be in the wildcard race up until Week 17 in 09′, and they would be capable of great things this season, I would have taken that in a heartbeat. I’m guessing most of you would too.
So let’s all step back, take a deep breath, and buckle up for what should be a great ride the rest of the season. There is so much football left to be played. If they can fall from grace in two short weeks, they are surely capable of righting the ship just as fast. Let’s get behind our boys for these next twelve games and hopefully beyond.
By the way, GO VIKINGS! The bye week will be considerably more tolerable if the last unbeaten team goes down (pop some champagne for the 72′ Dolphins) and the Jets lose a big game on Monday Night Football.