Power Rankings: Preseason: No. 13. This week: No. 17.
Where they stand: The Dolphins are 4-4 and in third place in the AFC East, two games behind the New York Jets and New England Patriots. But the Dolphins' gap really is greater than that because they're in serious tiebreaker trouble. They've lost to the Jets and Patriots and two other AFC teams apparently bound for the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Unless the Jets and Patriots collapse, the Dolphins might already be down to competing with a half-dozen teams for the final wild-card spot.
Falling: The Dolphins were supposed to have a magnificent and multifaceted offense after trading for receiver Brandon Marshall. That gave Chad Henne one of the NFL's elite go-to targets in addition to Davone Bess in the slot and one of the most respected backfield tandems around. The offense has been frail both on the ground and through the air. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning has overseen only 11 touchdowns. Only the Carolina Panthers have fewer. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have combined for three rushing touchdowns. Marshall has one touchdown.
On defense, the Dolphins have been decent. They rank 13th in total defense and 16th in scoring defense. But they haven't been ball hawks under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. The Buffalo Bills are the only team with fewer interceptions. No team has recovered fewer fumbles. As a result, the Dolphins are a minus-7 in turnover margin.
Rising: Outside linebackers Cameron Wake and Koa Misi have chased down quarterbacks well. That was a concern in the offseason after cutting ties with Joey Porter and losing Jason Taylor to free agency. Wake is in his second NFL season, while Misi is a rookie. They have combined for 12 sacks, four shy of Porter's and Taylor's total last year. Also on defense, left cornerback Vontae Davis remains prone to the occasional lapse, but he has emerged as one of the league's top young pass defenders.
Bess is one of the NFL's most underrated players, but the Dolphins certainly value him. They signed Bess to a lucrative three-year extension. He leads all Dolphins players with three touchdowns. He's on pace to have 88 receptions for 902 yards.
Midseason MVP: Based on statistical production, Marshall would be the choice. He's on pace for 104 receptions and 1,236 yards. But he has only one touchdown, and I have a hard time selecting any offensive player as Dolphins MVP. That's why my pick is Wake, who ranks second in the NFL with 8.5 sacks.
Outlook: The Dolphins will have trouble making the playoffs, but it's certainly possible to accomplish. You can reason they are one debatable officiating decision from being 5-3 with a victory over the Steelers. Nevertheless, the Dolphins will need to go 6-2 in their remaining games to be confident in their postseason hopes and 5-3 at the very least. They'll need to get hot, and the key to that will be a clicking offense.