Does anyone want to play the Dolphins right now?
Miami's fourth win in their last five games was the Dolphins' best all-around effort of the season, pounding the Raiders 34-14 — and Oakland's 14 points came in garbage time.
This was a Raiders team that was in first place in the AFC West, and the Dolphins (at home, no less) could care less. Miami has gone from 0-7 and the laughingstock of the league to the best 4-8 team in the NFL — by a lot.
Once again, the defense showed why this team is a few pieces away from being a contender, and it makes owner Stephen Ross' inevitable decision at the end of the season tougher to swallow.
The PFW Spin
The Raiders came to South Florida with one of the league's top rushing attacks. They rushed for 46 yards against the Dolphins and Michael Bush had 18 yards on 10 carries. Miami has allowed an average of 58.3 rushing yards over the past four games.
The Dolphins' defense hounded Carson Palmer, forcing a pick-six and hitting him five times.
On offense, Reggie Bush had a 100-yard rushing game and rookie Daniel Thomas added 73 rushing yards as the Dolphins piled up a season-high 209 rushing yards. Bush has a career-high 667 rushing yards this season and 1,000 yards is in reach.
QB Matt Moore threw for a touchdown and ran for a score. He has eight touchdown passes and one interception in the past five games.
It's amazing to think this team was 0-7 and in the "Suck for Luck" conversation.
It has been a remarkable coaching job by essentially a lame-duck Tony Sparano, who had to know this would be his last season when Ross courted Jim Harbaugh last January. Sparano's players never quit; however, they just got healthy and stopped underachieving.
The Dolphins have two games left against playoff contenders — the Patriots and Jets, and Miami could factor into the AFC playoff picture — getting to 7-9 is not out of the realm of possibility.
The winning ways also have put the Dolphins out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, but they still have a very good shot at getting one of the top QBs in next year's draft, such as Matt Barkley or Robert Griffin III, whose stock is rising.
But without Luck, it likely will be more difficult for Ross to land a big-name head coach, unless one of the hot candidates is a big fan of one of the signalcallers in the tier below Luck.
It's still likely a classic case of "too little, too late," and Sparano should be a hot candidate to be an assistant somewhere in 2012. What this surge does is put more pressure on Ross to make the right decision in his coaching search. The past five weeks (four wins and a last-second loss to Dallas on Thanksgiving Day) are a testament to the respect the Dolphins have for Sparano, and the fans are well aware of the team's turnaround.
The 0-7 start cannot be ignored, but Ross' worst-case scenario is if Miami fans are wishing they still had Sparano in charge at this time next season. If the past five weeks are any indication, it is far from a certainty this team will be better off without him.
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