Yes, there are some head-turning surprises halfway through the 2008 season. But none compare to the resurgence of the Miami Dolphins.
Last season's whipping boys have a totally different look. Owner Wayne Huizenga hired football czar Bill Parcells to turn the NFL's doormat into the team that nobody wants to play.
So yeah, we all expected a change...But no one expected them in a playoff push.
Especially not in 2008.
Dolphins fans now look to the second half of the season with the very hope and anticipation that was lost when Marino retired in 1999.
This is why I have compiled a list of the five things I love the most about this year's team.
1. This team is tough.
New Head Coach Tony Sparano has instilled a new attitude with this Miami Dolphins club. They operate with a discipline and confidence that I haven't seen since Don Shula's best years.
The Dolphins offer the shortest injury report, week after week. Guys don't want to be hurt. The alternative is worse than playing with some pain.
Just ask Joey Porter.
This week, Porter remarked about what happens when someone on the team has an injury, stating: "[Sparano] will come in and tell you, "You've got two days left...You're working on borrowed time now."
It seems the message sank in.
2. Chad Pennington.
I must say something now that I don't imagine I will say again any time soon.
Thank you, New York Jets!
As difficult as that was for me, I had to show gratitude to the organization that handed us the Dolphins' biggest upgrade.
Chad Pennington turned one of the biggest question marks on this team into arguably its greatest strength. Pennington has instilled confidence in players on both offense and defense, while having one of the best statistical seasons of his nine-year career.
3. They win close games.
For the last few years, the Dolphins have a well-known propensity for blowing leads late in games.
Or making costly mistakes in late-game drives while trailing.
Now, granted, they are guilty of committing both of the aforementioned "no-no's" this season, but never have I watched the Dolphins late in games expecting them to do the right thing at the right time.
Like converting a clutch third-down play.
Or like making a crucial stop on 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line.
Plays like these were absent in recent seasons. I look forward to more time on the winning end of these close contests.
4. The Coaches.
And I'm not just talking about Tony Sparano.
The rookie head coach is no doubt making the most of his first season as an NFL head coach. He as earned the respect of his players. The confidence that Bill Parcells has in him has spread through the organization and even to the fans.
But the people I've really been impressed with are the assistants.
Dan Henning has been drawing praise, and not just from fellow coaches and opponents. The Dolphins' new offensive coordinator has raised some eyebrows around the league. So much, in fact, that other teams have started calling his plays.
Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni pushes the defense to play hard. A unit that had a lot of uncertainty heading into the season is seeing success without having the most talent. Discipline and intensity allow the defense to make big plays and keep other teams from making them.
5. They are fun to watch.
The Dolphins make the highlight reels of all the major sports networks, week after week.
The difference this season: They're making the plays.
Starting with win against the Patriots in Week Three, all NFL fans have admitted that the Dolphins are as entertaining a team as you can find in the league. And it's not just the gimmick plays.
Look at the catches the receivers have been making. Big plays from three different running backs. Great blocking. Sacks. Interceptions. And I think I've seen at least one linebacker from the opposing team every week copy Joey Porter's big leg kick.
Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
If you have any to add to the list, or just point out things I missed, please free to mention them in the comments below.
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