The 1-1 Miami Dolphins seem to have assumed a double identity. Their first two games could not have been more different. After Week 1, Miami looked like a team that might not win any games at all (satirical newspaper The Onion had some fun with the team, posting an article last week titled "Overconfident Dolphins Already Talking About Going Perfect 0-16").
Then the Oakland Raiders visited South Florida for Miami's home opener this weekend. Miami trailed 10-7 at halftime on Sunday, but scored 28 second-half points to put away the Raiders. After the game, more than a few Dolfans took to Twitter with Super Bowl predictions.
It's definitely too early to be talking Super Bowl, but could the Dolphins be better than most observers predicted before the season?
First, the positives. When Ryan Tannehill isn't throwing passes that get batted at the line of scrimmage, he can be pretty good. The rookie quarterback completed 18 of 30 passes against Oakland, a huge improvement from his three-interception debut against the Texans.
RB Reggie Bush, a 1,000-yard rusher a season ago, has continued to show that he can carry an offense. He is averaging 6 yards per carry through two games, and broke off two touchdown runs against the Raiders reminiscent of his USC days.
The Dolphins defense has been statistically average (currently 17th in yards allowed per game with 367), but have the fifth-lowest third-down percentage in the NFL with 27.6. Clearly, there is talent on this Dolphins team. But there are some red flags that suggest the Oakland game, and not the Houston game, is an aberration.
For starters, there are few NFL teams that have been as bad as the Raiders over the past decade. Oakland has not made a playoff appearance since 2002 (which was also the Raiders' last winning season).
The Dolphins have had plenty of success against Oakland in recent seasons, beating the Raiders in 2011, 2010, and 2008. But even though Miami walked away with a win on Sunday, Oakland seemed to have little trouble moving the ball, racking up 396 yards of total offense. If the Raiders were any better than 1 of 12 on third down conversions, Sunday's result could have been much, much different.
Miami's defensive secondary had trouble stopping Oakland all day. Carson Palmer gashed the Dolphins for 373 yards in the air. The defensive front did the secondary no favors, failing to record a single sack (through two weeks, the Dolphins have only 2 quarterback sacks).
Imagine what Tom Brady can accomplish against this team. The NFL is a passing league, and if the secondary is the weak link on your defense, you will not win many games.
We will get a better idea of the Dolphins' capabilities very soon. In the next four weeks, the Dolphins play the New York Jets and St. Louis Rams at home, with trips to the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals. None will be pushovers, and Miami might not be favored in any contest.
If the Dolphins win 3 (or even 2) of these games, it might be safe to be optimistic in South Florida (though even then it would be too early to start talking playoffs). If not, it could be another long season in South Florida.