More than halfway through the 2023 NFL season, the question on most fans’ minds are is whether their team a Super Bowl contender or a pretender. Dolphins fans are wondering the same thing even with the Phins atop the AFC East.
The Miami Dolphins are Super Bowl Contenders
Yes, it has been thirty-plus years since the idea has been entertained. Thirty very long years that saw 22 individuals not named Marino, taking snaps from under center. Three decades that saw more than six times the number of head coaches it had seen in its first thirty years of existence. In that time, fans also endured a 1-15 season. So forgive some traumatized and anxious Dolphins fans, including this writer, if they are still not sure their team is a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Why the Miami Dolphins are Super Bowl Contenders
On paper, the team boasts some of the most talented names on both sides of the ball and special teams. Tyreek Hill is pursuing 2,000 yards as a receiver. De’Von Achane is back and may be the top running back in the NFL if he can stay healthy. Defensively, Jalen Ramsey is back and making contributions (Two interceptions in the win over the Raiders). On special teams, is there a better kick returner (arguably), than Braxton Berrios?
All arguments sound reasonable that this team should be considered a favorite to be in Las Vegas come February for Super Bowl LVIII. There are only two teams that have better records than the Dolphins in the AFC. The Baltimore Ravens sit at a .727 winning percentage having played one more game than the Dolphins, at 8-3. The other team with a better record is the 7-2 Chiefs who the Dolphins lost to by a touchdown. The Dolphins are currently tied with the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars for third-best record in the AFC. Tied for third in the AFC is not bad, but is it Super Bowl caliber?
Why The Dolphins are Pretenders
Tied for third in the AFC puts the Dolphins in the top 19%…of the AFC. Now, in the entire NFL, they would be tied for fifth best behind the league-leading Philadelphia Eagles, and the Detroit Lions, and tied with both the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys. This puts the Dolphins in the top 30 percent of the NFL; a difference of 11% between best in conference and league comparisons. Two of the aforementioned eight teams the Dolphins have already lost to, in the Eagles and Chiefs.
Two more of those remaining six, the Dolphins will play in successive weekends. The Dolphins will host the Cowboys on Christmas Eve then play the Ravens on New Year’s Eve, in Baltimore. Add having to play the Bills again, a team they lost to by 28 and it feels like the scales tip towards “pretenders.” To be the best you have to beat the best and so far the Dolphins are 0 for 2.
The Dolphins Have Not Beaten the Best
More than halfway through the season, the debate as to whether the Dolphins are Super Bowl contenders or pretenders is still murky. Two things are true, however. The first is the Dolphins have not beaten the best. They lost to both the Chiefs and Eagles. They have two more chances to “beat the best” if they can knock off both the Ravens and Cowboys. To be considered contenders, they must also beat the teams they are supposed to beat and avenge that double-digit debauchery against the Bills. If they can do all of those things then choosing “contender” over “pretender”, may be a bit easier.
Main Photo: Jim Rassol / USA TODAY NETWORK