The story of the first half of the NFL season is probably the Miami Dolphins. The story of the second half could be the Dolphins too.
The Dolphins are easily the most exciting team in a low-scoring NFL season. They’re on pace to finish in the top five in NFL history in yards per game and points scored. Tua Tagovailoa is an MVP candidate, and Tyreek Hill should be one too. There are still questions over Miami’s viability as a Super Bowl contender, but they’re the one team worth watching every week. That’s why we’ll find the Dolphins all over our top five list of the best games from the first half, and a big part of the five best matchups to come in the second half.
Five best games of the NFL’s first half
5. Week 3, Dolphins 70, Broncos 20
This was not a competitive game. But memorable? No doubt. In more than 100 years of NFL football, this was the only time a team has put up 70 points and 700 yards in a game. The only other 700-yard game came from the 1951 Los Angeles Rams. It’s just the fourth time in NFL history, including playoffs, that a team has reached 70 points and the first time since 1966. Tua Tagovailoa threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns. De’Von Achane rushed for 203 yards and had four total touchdowns. It’s going to be a long time before we see another game like this one.
4. Week 7: Patriots 29, Bills 25
Nobody expected this to be a competitive game, but it ended up being a thriller. The Patriots had lost three in a row and looked like they might be the worst team in the NFL. The Bills have had an odd season but still weren’t expected to lose to the Patriots. And when the Bills scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes to take a 25-22 lead, it seemed like they’d escape with a win. But the oft-criticized Mac Jones drove the Patriots all the way downfield and hit Mike Gesicki for the game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds left to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season.
3. Week 1: Jets 22, Bills 16
Ultimately this game will be best known for Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles injury four plays into the season. But it turned out to be a tense, competitive game with the Jets staying in it due to the defense causing four turnovers and then a walk-off punt return touchdown in overtime by rookie Xavier Gipson. This game was watched by 22.6 million viewers, the most ever for an ESPN broadcast of “Monday Night Football.”
2. Week 2: Seahawks 37, Lions 31
This was a fun back-and-forth game that had a little of everything: A flea-flicker touchdown for the Lions, a fourth-quarter pick-6 for the Seahawks, 300 yards passing for each quarterback and a rally in the final minutes by Detroit that tied up the game at the end of regulation. Then the Seahawks took the first possession in overtime all the way for a game-ending touchdown to Tyler Lockett. A good game between two of the NFC’s best teams.
1. Week 1: Dolphins 36, Chargers 34
The two teams that met for perhaps the greatest game in NFL history (the “Epic in Miami” playoff thriller from 1982) had the best game of this season to date. There were nine lead changes in this one. Tua Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards and led his team on a drive that finished with the game-winning touchdown to Tyreek Hill with 1:45 left. It was the first step in Tagovailoa becoming an MVP favorite and the Dolphins getting chatter as one of the greatest offenses ever.
Five best matchups left on the NFL schedule
5. Week 17: Lions at Cowboys
The Lions have a fairly weak schedule the rest of the way, and the reason for bringing that up is twofold: One of the NFL’s best teams won’t have many more marquee matchups the rest of the season, and they could compile a record that puts them in the mix for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. This game happens on a Saturday night in Week 17 and it could have huge playoff implications. If nothing else it’ll be fun standalone showdown between two strong NFC teams.
4. Week 13: 49ers at Eagles
This should be a great rematch of last season’s NFC championship game. The 49ers and Eagles might have the two best rosters in the NFL, and this should be a hard-hitting game with stars all over the place. San Francisco went on a strange three-game losing streak after a 5-0 start, but should still end up as one of the best teams in the NFC. We already know the Eagles will be in that mix. The 49ers will be out for some revenge after losing in the NFC title game when all their quarterbacks went down with injuries. If the 49ers can figure out their issues, this game could determine where this season’s NFC championship game is held.
3. (tie) Week 9 and Week 14: Eagles vs. Cowboys
Let’s put both NFC East showdowns on the list. The first happens in Philly this week and the rematch will be on a Sunday night at Dallas. The Eagles won the division last season but the Cowboys weren’t far behind. If Dallas wants to take the NFC East title, it has to win at least one of these matchups. These will be two great rivalry games with a ton on the line.
2. Week 18: Bills at Dolphins
We might be able to flex this one for the final Sunday night of the season right now. There seems to be a very good chance the AFC East is decided by this game, and perhaps the AFC’s No. 1 seed too. The Bills won the first meeting but the Dolphins have pulled ahead in the division due to the Bills’ slump. Maybe this won’t have the intrigue we want if either team clinches the AFC East before the final week, but it could also be the best Sunday night finale we’ve had in years. A lot depends on if the Bills can rebound to looking like contenders again in the second half. If they do, this game jumps up to No. 1 on the list.
1. Week 9: Dolphins vs. Chiefs
Germany gets a really good game in Week 9, perhaps the best International Series matchup there has been. Tua Tagovailoa and Patrick Mahomes are MVP candidates. The Dolphins and Chiefs could be the two best teams in the AFC, though Miami needs to prove it can beat elite teams. They get a good shot to do that against the Chiefs. It should be a fun game between two great offenses, with a lot on the line. Set the alarm to catch this early start.