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Two of the surprise teams of the season are facing off this weekend. The Miami Dolphins are currently 5-3 and are in second place in the AFC East. They are playing at the 6-2 Detroit Lions. When this game was originally scheduled, no one expected it to have any playoff implications.
The Detroit Lions have had a fairly easy schedule so far this season, but this game will begin a tough stretch. Following this week, the Lions face the top team in the NFC, the 7-1 Arizona Cardinals. Then, the team travels to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots. The combined record of the Dolphins, Cards and Pats is 19-5. Once Detroit gets past this difficult three game stretch, their opponents have a combined record of 16-25. Detroit has a realistic chance of winning the NFC North and getting a chance to play in January.

 

The Dolphins are even more of a surprise to the world even though they probably shouldn’t be. Even with the giant bullying scandal that overshadowed this franchise, the Miami Dolphins finished last season with a record of 8-8. Many analysts projected this team to have a similar type of season. For Miami, their season began the right way. Week 1, the team took on the divisional powerhouse New England Patriots. For as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have led the Pats, this team has essentially always beaten the Fins. But week 1 was different. The Dolphins came out and dominated both lines. Their offense had their way and the defense constantly had pressure on Brady.

So far the Detroit Lions have played most of this season without the best wide receiver in the game, Calvin Johnson. He hasn’t played since week 5. Johnson is a game-changer. Megatron is the type of player that requires a double team and will still end up with the ball. Johnson and QB Matthew Stafford have always been on the same page. The Lions offensive game plan for the last couple season: get the ball to Calvin. However without him in the lineup, this was a chance for Stafford to step up and prove his skill. Through the first eight games of the season, Stafford hasn’t done anything. He’s only thrown 11 touchdowns (Andrew Luck is the currently leader with 26) and 7 interceptions (Blake Bortles leads the league with 13).

 

Aside from Calvin Johnson’s absence, the biggest difference this season for the Lions, is the outstanding play from their defense. The defense currently ranks 2nd for rushing yards allowed per game, only 74 and 5th for passing yards allowed per game, 216.4.The Lions defense has carried this team so far, but let’s see if the offensive can come together.

Following Miami’s big week 1 win, the team lost three of its next four games against the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers. Buffalo currently sits at 5-3, tied with Miami in the AFC East. Kansas City and Green Bay also have a record of 5-3. During this four game slide, the Dolphins only win came against the lowly Oakland Raiders (so does that really even count as a win?)
 

Since that however, Miami has looked like a completely different team.  In week 7 the team took on the Chicago Bears, a team that looked a lot better before they actually stepped on the field in September, and dominated the game 27-14. The score truly didn’t show how one-sided this game actually was. Their next game was against Jacksonville (another should-be easy victory), and they did win 27-13. Miami’s most recent game was their most impressive through the first half of the season. They completed a 37-0 rout against the San Diego Chargers. This game was just truly amazing because Miami owned every matchup.
During Miami’s three game win streak, quarterback Ryan Tannehill has thrown for 6 touchdowns and only 1 interception. Running back Lamar Miller has rushed for 188 yards and two scores in the past three games. Probably some of the most telling stats are those of the defense: 9 points allowed per game and 2 interceptions per game.

Both of these teams look like playoff contenders and this game will be a good test, but I’m still skeptical about seeing them in the playoffs.

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