Are the Dolphins and Cowboys Legit?

By Adam Barton

Two of the biggest storylines so far this season have been the standout performances of the Dolphins and Cowboys. But the Dolphins and Cowboys legit?

Miami has put up near record-setting numbers, including scoring 70 against Denver. While Dallas has smothered teams, holding New England to 3 points and pitching a shutout against the Giants.

And yet, with a combined record of 11-6 with three losses each, both languish as the fourth seed in each conference.

The Dolphins have been pretty healthy, bar some injuries at running back, with Devon Achane and Jeff Wilson both missing time. Tua Tagovailoa leads the league in passing yards and TDs. Unsurprisingly, the Dolphins’ offense has 45 more yards per game than anyone else.

The defense is on the edge of the top 10 in yards allowed, although they have conceded the eighth most points in the league. The high conversion rate is cause for concern but the domination of their offense may mean this stat is skewed by “garbage time” TDs.

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What’s more, the vaunted AFC East hasn’t been quite as spectacular as expected. With the Patriots vying for the first overall pick, Aaron Rodgers’ injury, and the Bills regressing this year. The Dolphins do have a -4 turnover differential, but that is the same as the conference-leading Chiefs.

And yet, the Dolphins are beatable. The best team they have beaten is the…?

The Chargers? The Broncos? In their three matchups with playoff contenders, they have been beaten convincingly. The benefit of the doubt is gone, this is a trend.

It follows the notion that “Offense wins games, Defense wins championships”.

Would you back the Dolphins to beat any of the other AFC division leaders? Or any of the AFC North? The evidence suggests that you couldn’t with any confidence. Miami needs a statement win. Not a blowout win but a one-score win against a true contender.

Sadly, opportunities to prove this are limited. Hosting the Titans in Week 14 could be that opportunity. Then the Dolphins effectively begin their playoff journey in Week 16, hosting the Cowboys and Bills, sandwiching a trip to Baltimore. After that, we will know far more about this Miami team.

As for America’s Team, the Cowboys, have the opposite problem. With the third-best defense by yards and sixth by points, on the other side of the ball, the offense has been average. That has been bumped up by the re-emergence of CeeDee Lamb over the last two weeks.

Similarly to Miami, Dallas has yet to beat a big team. They appear to be the younger brother within the conference, having lost to Philadelphia and San Francisco so far in 2023.

Much like Miami, the major tests come in December, with Philadelphia, Miami (away), Buffalo (away), and Detroit being the ultimate proving ground for Dallas.

At 5-3 and 6-3, both Miami and Dallas are headed to the playoffs, barring catastrophe. What they can do once they are there is another story. Week 16’s matchup will tell us a lot about both teams. But only one can come out a winner. Right now, it looks as if both will come unstuck at the first major hurdle. 

Feature Image Credit: On3

Adam Barton

NFL Analyst

A veteran NFL fan of 15 years, Adam has followed the Ravens since growing up in Maryland. He puts his loyalties to one side to provide (largely) unbiased content from across the NFL for The Touchdown, as well as appearing on the Ninety-Nine Yards podcast. You can find Adam on Twitter @abarton93.