Top 5 Reasons For Miami Dolphins Fans To Be Thankful

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Top 5 Reasons For Miami Dolphins Fans To Be Thankful

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NFL season hasn't gone as planned for the Miami Dolphins. An offseason spending spree was supposed to equip the Dolphins to make a run at the franchise's first AFC East title in five years, especially considering the New England Patriots were said to be vulnerable and quarterback Ryan Tannehill was set to break out during his second season.

Five wins and six losses later and many fans are beginning to believe the 2013 Dolphins are the same ole mediocre team disguised in a new logo and uniforms. Of course, the season is still young and the Dolphins remain alive and well in the AFC playoff picture. But looking at their product on the field alone the Dolphins haven't been as advertised.

Their offensive line is seemingly in shambles after struggling to run the football and protect Tannehill before losing three starters. The defense has had difficulty stopping the run, which used to be a strength of the Dolphins in years past. The coaching staff hasn't validated itself as the right group of men to lead Miami back to its winning ways. And Tannehill hasn't taken the leap many hoped he would, although the team's previously mentioned shortcomings have limited his ability to do so.

But let's take a break from the disappointment for a moment in honor of Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the holiday, let's take a look at the top five reasons Dolphins fans should be thankful this season.

Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.

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5. The Mediocre AFC

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Sitting at 5-6 through 12 weeks in most seasons would result in the Dolphins clinging to their playoff lives and likely in need of a miracle finish to continue playing in January. This year, however, the Dolphins are tied for the conference's final playoff spot thanks to a top-heavy AFC.

As losers of four of their last six the Dolphins aren't a favorite to land said spot, but they have as good of a chance as any of the five other 5-6 teams. Only one of Miami's remaining five opponents currently owns a winning record.

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4. Nate Garner's Versatility

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Most teams wouldn't survive losing three starting offensive linemen, especially when that offensive line is one of the league's worst units to begin with.

The Dolphins have still struggled to run the football and protect Tannehill, but there hasn't been much falloff since Jonathan Martin left the team, Richie Incognito was suspended and Mike Pouncey suffered a gallbladder illness.

The biggest reason that the line hasn't fallen apart has been the versatile Nate Garner. Garner entered the season as a tackle but has since filled in at left guard and center. Without him, the Dolphins probably don't beat the San Diego Chargers in Week 11. And without that win Miami's playoff hopes would be quite bleak.

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3. Brent Grimes

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The Dolphins dished out lucrative, multi-year contracts to Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler during the offseason. All three have disappointed. The signing of cornerback Brent Grimes was overlooked by many given said additions, but it has turned out to be one of GM Jeff Ireland's best moves in Miami.

Grimes has locked down opposing receivers all season with blanketing coverage and has showed off some impressive ball-hawking skills when targeted. According to Pro Football Focus, only six corners in the entire league have fared better in coverage this year.

Without Grimes the Dolphins don't improve what was one of the league's leakiest secondaries a season ago. With him only three defenses have conceded a lower passing rating than the Dolphins in 2013.

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2. Tom Brady's Career Won't Last Forever

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The Patriots have had a stranglehold on the AFC East since the turn of the new millennium, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the other three teams in the division. Quarterback Tom Brady's career is slowly but surely winding down.

Brady will be 37 next season and could begin to fall off any year now. He's clearly still an elite quarterback, and as long as the Patriots have him at their disposal they'll be the class of the division. But their window is closing, and thanks to the next player on our list there's reason to believe the Dolphins might be ready to take over as the king of the AFC East when Brady calls it a career.

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1. Ryan Tannehill

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Sure, Tannehill still has his struggles. He hasn't arrived yet in his second season as a pro nor is he relatively close to playing at the level he's capable of, but he's showed enough promise to indicate he's the future of the franchise. Without a running game or reliable pass protection, Tannehill is on pace to throw for more passing yards this year than any quarterback in team history not named Dan Marino.

In a pass-happy NFL, if you have a quarterback you have a chance. The Dolphins appear to have a quarterback, and although they might not make the postseason in 2013 they have the potential to emerge as a perennial playoff contender thanks to Tannehill. Dolphins fans and Tannehill can only hope they have a solid offensive line and running game to be thankful for next Thanksgiving.

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