Five Reasons the Miami Dolphins Are Real Contenders

The Miami Dolphins are a .500 football team. Hi, haters! Since the funeral everyone held for the team following its 30-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans October 9, the Dolphins have won three straight, catapulting themselves to the top of the pack of teams hunting for that last AFC wildcard spot.

To sum things up in enough characters to fit in a tweet: It's November, and the Miami Dolphins' season isn't over yet. That's what's up.

It's all superexciting, and Dolphins fans shouldn't be embarrassed to rub their nipples right now. But we have to ask: Is it for real? Actually, yeah. This is why.

5. The Dolphins' defensive line is overwhelming opponents.

The Dolphins might not steamroll into the Super Bowl on the backs of a dominant defense, but their defensive line sure as hell could be a huge part of the team's surprising success. Between Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams, Jordan Phillips, and Andre Branch, the Dolphins are constantly harassing the other team's quarterback. The group has combined for 19 sacks, and these guys seem to hurry the opposing team's signal-caller into bad decisions.

4. Jay Ajayi runs like he has a firecracker stuck up his ass.

Ajayi has risen so high so quickly that his 111 yards against the New York Jets this past Sunday seemed like a letdown. After a three-game stretch in which he totaled 529 yards, that's just the sort of ceiling you get. Ajayi has become the face of the Miami Dolphins. Not Ryan Tannehill. Not Jarvis Landry. Not Adam Gase. Not anyone else. It's Jay Ajayi whom outsiders think of when they think of Dolphins football right now. He's their identity. It's been a long time since the Dolphins could claim a true identity or strength on the football field.

3. Ryan Tannehill doesn't have to do more than he's capable of right now.

Notice how no one is talking about Ryan Tannehill over the past month? That's probably the area we are all best living in. Tannehill will forever be a guy just good enough to quarterback a team with a ground-and-pound style that's winning games without asking him for too much help. Tannehill's contract balloons next season as the commitment gets a lot more serious, so you can be sure the conversation revolving around his tenure in Miami is not over. It's been nice to get a break from dissecting every pass No. 17 makes over the past three games. If the Dolphins are for real, that's likely how the conversation will continue to go.

2. The Dolphins' secondary has not been a complete dumpster fire.

A mix-and-match of free-agency signings, players cut from other teams, midseason additions, draft picks, and quite possibly some random stadium vendors make up the Dolphins' secondary. Half the guys playing at any given time do not look familiar to even the most diehard Dolphins fan. Their numbers barely ring a bell.

Yet somehow that ragtag group has kept things together after Reshad Jones and rookie Xavien Howard were lost to injury. Much of that can be credited to the defensive line's dominance, but that can carry you only so far.

Guys such as Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain, and, at times, Byron Maxwell have played well in the past month, and there is no reason to think the position won't get even better as the secondary gets healthier, including the return of Chris Culliver.

1. The Dolphins' offensive line is one of the best in football.

If there is one common thread among just about every true contender in NFL history, it's that they've all had a powerful offensive line. It's been a long time since the Dolphins could say their offensive line was a strength, but that's exactly the case this season now that all the pieces are together. Ever since Mike Pouncey returned from his hip injury, the Dolphins' O-line has been elite. It's the reason Ajayi has been able to run for 529 yards in three games, and it's certainly the biggest reason this season has turned around.

The Dolphins are not a fluke. Are they good enough to be contenders in the playoffs? Well, let's not get carried away. At least they're fun to watch every Sunday again.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi