The bye week has come and gone, with defensive end Derrick Shelby's arrest early Saturday as the only troubling incident coming out of the time off, and so the Miami Dolphins return to the season's grind with a 12:15 practice today. (Be sure to come back here around 1ish and follow me on twitter for updates from practice).
Anyway, the Dolphins find themselves after their bye in no better position than they did before the bye as a couple of AFC East rivals had good weekends while the New York Jets continued to show they have many questions and few answers as the division's worst team. More on that in a bit.
The Dolphins are 2-2 and while it can be said they seem pointed in the right direction, with that victory over Oakland a fortnight ago sending them happily toward their bye, questions about this team persist.
Firstly, it must be said that the Dolphins were a .500 team against the easier part of their schedule. The combined winning percentage of four teams in Miami's rearview mirror is .421. The combined winning percentage of the teams Miami is about to play the next dozen weeks is .474. No, neither mark seems daunting.
The Dolphins just faced E.J. Manuel (since benched), Alex Smith and Oakland rookie Derek Carr. They were 1-2 in those three games.
The Dolphins are about to face Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Phillip Rivers, Matt Stafford, Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco.
The only thing that offers hope in facing that formidable row of QBs is the fact the Dolphins already played and beat Tom Brady in the season opener. Of course, Brady is coming around again in a Foxboro rematch, but if a team can beat Brady, the rest of the assignment is not without hope.
The Dolphins probably hoped Brady and the Patriots would continue to struggle this past weekend as they had the first four games, particularly in that Monday Night fiasco at Kansas City. But the Patriots emerged from a week in which everything and everyone in Boston was questioned with a stunningly easy victory over the previously undefeated Cincinnati Bengals.
The only good news for Miami in the wake of that result as that the NFL no longer has an undefeated team in 2014. The 1972 Dolphins will continue to be the lone NFL team to win it all and while remaining undefeated.
But history aside, that New England victory suggested the Patriots are not the declining team they were portrayed after Kansas City. On Sunday night the Patriots protected Brady, ran the ball, and found their tight ends in a manner that nearly recalled the Gronk-Hernandez heydays. Oh, yes, the defense also got excellent play from Darrelle Revis, who was finally unleashed from zone assignments to play man-to-man vs. A.J. Green. Revis won the matchup so he's not too old, he's not washed up and now the Patriots seem to have a clue about how to use him. None of that is good news for the Dolphins.
In Detroit, the Bills pulled out a come-from-behind victory when Dan Carpenter connected on a 58-yard FG. The win came on the road. Against a solid team. And with new starter Kyle Orton playing well enough to merit more starts as the new quarterback. The Bills are a talented team...except for their quarterback spot. If Orton settles that position with merely solid play, the Bills become a major problem for the Dolphins because, frankly, they've been a problem with poor quarterbacks as it was.
The news is not so good for the Jets. Their QB situation remains in flux. Geno Smith was the starter on Sunday and played so poorly he was benched at halftime. And then backup Mike Vick played poorly. So coach Rex Ryan is going back to Smith next Sunday.
But in shuffling QBs, the Jets are also lacking a running game and a solid defense. So to recap, no quarterback, no offensive help for the quarterback, no defensive help for the quarterback. The Jets are not contenders. Their best hope is that they can play spoilers -- again.
As for the Dolphins, this is a big week for center Mike Pouncey. He has been practicing on a limited basis for two weeks. He needs to get to full practice status before coach Joe Philbin will even think of playing him. Pouncey had hoped to return by Week 4. He didn't. If he misses Sunday's Green Bay game, that will be his sixth week (including the bye) out while fully recovering from that June hip surgery. This week is big.
Safety Reshad Jones should be back in the lineup against the Packers -- one hopes. Look, I know Jimmy Wilson is a nice player and did a commendable job while Jones was suspended. But Jones is better. Plus, moving Jones back into the lineup allows the Dolphins to return Wilson to his nickel corner duties, which allows the team to lighten the load on Will Davis, who was acceptable but not great the past four games.
Kevin Coyle loves Wilson. Philbin is often conservative about putting guys back in the lineup quickly. And I worry the coaches may be lulled into thinking that because Wilson at safety and Davis playing outside in the nickel was not bad the first four weeks, it might be alright another week while Jones gets readjusted to playing again.
Wilson and Davis were fine against the QBs Miami just faced.
Did I mention the Dolphins are about to face Aaron Rodgers?