5 Reasons the Miami Dolphins Could Sneak into the Playoffs
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Typically in the AFC East, a team starting 1-3 has already signed a waiver to miss the postseason. The New England Patriots often start the season 3-1 or 4-0 and cast a shadow of doubt over the rest of the division.
This season, there has been a "refreshing" change. Even with a single win this year, the Miami Dolphins are not out of the race as they sit just one game behind the division leaders.
Being competitive is half the battle in the NFL, and the 'Fins have had a chance late in the game to win three of the four played this year.
If Miami can figure out a way to finish games, it might just find itself in the running for one of the final AFC playoff spots.
1. Brian Hartline Is a Viable First Option
Hartline is on pace to set career highs in yards and receptions.
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As a fantasy football owner, you may have hated yourself for leaving Brian Hartline on the bench last week. Fear not, you can feel good about yourself for the rest of the season.
A player who gets 12 catches and 253 yards in one week is pretty darn good. The best thing that the receiver from Ohio State has in his favor, though, is that he has clearly become rookie Ryan Tannehill's favorite weapon.
Hartline leads the Dolphins with 48 targets on the season while Davone Bess is second with 32.
Averaging 12 targets a game and four more than the next receiver shows that Hartline will often be called upon to make a play. If Sunday's game against Arizona was any indication, he is prepared to shine.
2. Dan Carpenter Will Make Game-Winning Kicks
Dan Carpenter has a strong leg: His career-long is 60 yards.
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Fact: Dan Carpenter missed a game-winning kick this season.
Opinion: He will make these kicks from here on out.
With a chance to beat the New York Jets in overtime, Carpenter hooked a 48-yard attempt wide to the left. The next week against the Arizona Cardinals, he missed a 51-yard try early in the third quarter that could have been the difference in another overtime loss.
The Montana product had a horrendous 2010 missing 11 of 41 kicks. Last season, however, Carpenter was 27 for 30 from 49 yards and closer including a phenomenal 11 for 12 from 40-49 yards.
If the Dolphins have a game-winning chance, Carpenter can be trusted to put the ball through the uprights.
3. Ryan Tannehill Is Showing His Potential
Tannehill has already made great strides in his rookie season.
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Ah yes, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Ryan Tannehill.
After starting only 17 games at the collegiate level, the biggest question was could the 6'4" signal-caller learn an NFL system?
Well, don't forget that Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was Tannehill's head coach at Texas A&M. The comfort level is there, the trust is there, and as previously stated, Brian Hartline is there.
Miami took a risk by drafting Tannehill and an equally large risk by starting him over incumbent Matt Moore, but it has paid dividends as the offense's chemistry is progressing every week.
If he is the quarterback of the future, the Dolphins made the right call by giving plenty of experience to Tannehill in the first year of his career.
4. Reggie Bush Could Attain His Offseason Goal
Reggie Bush is finally becoming the running back he was expected to be out of USC.
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Reggie Bush made a bold statement this offseason.
In an article by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly, Bush declared that he wanted to lead the NFL in rushing in 2012.
After averaging 5.0 yards per carry last season, he has already improved upon that stat this year. Through four games, Bush is averaging 5.5 yards when he runs the ball.
Granted, he has only carried the ball 17 times per game compared to Arian Foster who has 25 carries per game, but Bush is nearly two yards better than the Texans' superstar.
If he keeps finding the holes provided by Jake Long and the offensive line, the big runs will come. The more 100-plus yard games Bush attains, the better chance he has at that achievable rushing title.
5. Stout Run Defense
The Cardinals had a tough game trying to run the ball against Miami's defense.
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Who would have expected this? The Dolphins' run defense is the best in the entire league.
Led by linebackers Karlos Dansby and Koa Misi alongside hybrid defensive lineman Cameron Wake, the opposition is only gaining 56.8 yards per game and 2.4 yards per carry. Another astonishing fact, the longest run against the crew is just 14 yards.
Keeping up this trend would be a huge advantage for Miami. If they can make their opponents one-dimensional for the rest of the season, it could propel the Dolphins into a sneaky playoff berth.
Then again, the secondary would have to start knocking down a few passes.