Are Dolphins in a state of despair?

The NFL Nation blog assembled a roundup of teams in despair after seven weeks. The idea was to examine teams that have failed to meet expectations or were especially struggling.

The Miami Dolphins were considered for the list, but ultimately were left off -- albeit barely. The line of thinking in omitting them was they are undefeated on the road and one bad break away from being 4-2.

But considering they're in third place in AFC East with the New York Jets and New England Patriots pulling away, I decided to take a look at the state of the Dolphins, using the same format as our "despair" package.

What's gone wrong: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross declared over the summer that his team would be in the Super Bowl. A major reason the Dolphins don't look the part is they haven't been able to get their offense moving despite a substantial commitment over the offseason. They gave young quarterback Chad Henne that coveted, big-play target by trading two second-round draft choices for Brandon Marshall. The Dolphins then made Marshall the league's highest-paid receiver. But the investment hasn't paid off. The Dolphins have scored fewer points than the Buffalo Bills. Only the Carolina Panthers have scored fewer than the Dolphins' six touchdowns in the red zone. Defensively, the Dolphins have had problems stopping the pass. Right cornerback has been a weakness. But the defense has been decent overall. Special teams were so abysmal, they already fired coordinator John Bonamego.

How to fix them: Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning needs to find a way to open things up. They have too much skill to be so dull. In addition to Marshall, they have running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and slot standout Davone Bess. Jake Long is one of the best left tackles in the game. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan must figure out how to generate turnovers. Ball-hawking is a Nolan trademark, but the Dolphins have just three fumble recoveries and four interceptions.

Panic rating: Moderate. The Dolphins have a lot of positives going for them, but they went into the season with high expectations, and the chances to achieve their goals will dwindle rapidly as long as they chase the Jets and Patriots.

Coach on hot seat? Tony Sparano appears safe, even though the man who hired him, Bill Parcells, has drifted from the organization. General manager Jeff Ireland still is in place, and he has worked with Sparano since their days in Dallas. Sparano banked some serious respect when he came aboard and led the Dolphins to the AFC East title a year after going 1-15. The fans love him because he's a straight shooter.