Was the dominant performance by the Miami Dolphins defense in the 39-17 Week 10 win against the Cleveland Browns an indication on how the unit will play the rest of the season? If so, then there is no doubt that the AFC East-leading 7-3 Dolphins are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. 

Dolphins looked dominant against the Browns.

At the time of writing, the underperforming Dolphins’ defense ranks 22nd  in points allowed, 21st in yards, and 28th in forced turnovers. However, against the Browns, they held Nick Chubb, who has rushed for more than 900 yards so far this season, in check for most of the game (outside of a 33-yard touchdown run), limiting him to 63 rushing yards. The front seven did a stellar job of pressuring  QB  Jacoby Brissett all game, which included three sacks. Xavien Howard,  who hasn’t looked like his usual dominant self for most of the year, also had a fine game limiting Amari Cooper to three catches for 33 yards.

We know the offense with Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle, as well as an improved running game with the addition of Jeff Wilson and an offensive line that has protected the QB well the past few weeks, can move the ball and score points. The underachieving defense just needs to play up to par for the Fins to have a chance at going far in the playoffs this year, so hopefully, the encouraging performance against the Browns provides optimism for the rest of the season. The recent addition of Bradley Chubb, who has looked solid in his first two games with the team, is key for an improved defense.

Inconsistent play so far this season.

The frustrating part with this defense is that before their game against the Browns, they had not played completely bad all year. It’s been inconsistent play. In Week 3, despite the Bills’ offense dominating the time of possession, the D still held them to 17 points in a win against their division rival. They also held their own for most of their games against the Bengals and Vikings. Even in games when the defense played poorly throughout, they still held on in clutch moments. In the  Week 2 thrilling comeback win, they only allowed three points to the Ravens in the fourth quarter. They also did not give up any points in the second half in their victory at Detroit (even with the Lions also beating themselves with penalties) and kept the Bears from scoring in their last two possessions to secure their victory in Chicago (even if the Fins may have gotten away with a missed pass interference). 

 It’s also worth noting that so far, they have not allowed a running back to rush for 100 yards or more. However, they need to play better against mobile quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields, who both rushed for more than 100 yards against the Dolphins this year.

The Fins’ defense has also performed much better at home than on the road. Opponents are averaging 15 points per game when playing in South Florida. However, opponents have averaged 33 ppg when the Fins are on the road. 

Looking ahead to the final stretch of the regular season 

The Dolphins’ defense should have an easy game this Sunday at home against the struggling 1-8-1 Houston Texans, who rank near the bottom of the league in offensive categories. However, just like any other team in the NFL,  they can’t overlook them and must stay focused. Following this game,  the real test begins with a tough three-game road stretch at San Francisco and Los Angeles to face the Chargers and Buffalo. The defense will obviously have to play well during this time. We’ll see how good they can be. 

 While there is potential for the defense to do well the rest of the way, they have had unfortunate injuries. S Brandon  Jones’ season-ending injury against the Steelers was a devastating blow, and CB Byron Jones’s absence this season has been glaring. (At this point, I will be pleasantly surprised if he plays at all this year.) Howard has been hobbled this year due to a groin injury, so hopefully, the bye week helped him. The loss of defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah for the remainder of the season is also a bummer. Although  Ogbah was not playing as well this season as we’d hoped, it’s still a tough loss. However, there is still a lot of talent in the defense for more consistent play for the rest of the year.