1.) Health. Last year Miami was plagued with injuries. Ronnie Brown started the year off on fire, making huge plays in both the running and passing game. I always joked that Brown would rack up 100 yards on the ground in the first half, while the game was close, and then another 100 yards through the air in the second half when Miami was trying to come back. It's not just Brown. The D-line was healthy all year. The O-line only had one missed game combined. The secondary is obviously the weak link of the defense, but at least there were a lot less games missed this year than last.
2.) Parcells and Sparano. The new brain trust certainly re-built the team beautifully. That healthy D-line? All new. The O-line returned several starters from last year, but was certainly improved by drafting Jake Long. Certainly the addition of Chad Pennington helped -- a lot. But don't forget about other subtle improvements like trading for Anthony Fasano.
3.) Brett Favre. I'm not putting him here because of the three picks he threw in the season finale against Miami, but because of his offseason drama. If Favre would have never retired, he would have stayed at Green Bay this year. I don't want to even try to speculate how that would have turned out -- Green Bay was bad this year because their defense could not stop the run -- but I know how it would have affected Miami. Favre in Green Bay, means no Favre in New York, and that means no Chad Pennington in Miami. Pennington is no messiah, but he was good. He posted a 97.4 QB rating! That was second in the NFL! He was obviously a huge improvement over the mess that Miami had last year. Here's a few more stats for you: Miami was 5th in offense in the AFC, 6th in run offense, 5th in pass offense, and had the fewest turnovers in the AFC. Thanks Favre!
With all of that being said, I shoudl expect Miami to roll to the Super Bowl, right? Well maybe not. I do think Miami has a good chance against Baltimore this weekend. Miami was 5th against the run, but only 12th against the pass in the AFC. Baltimore was only 13th in passing, and with Miami at home ... they have a chance! The early line has Baltimore as a 4.5 point favorite, so obviously some smart folks think Miami's fantastic run is about to end. Either way, it's been a great season for Miami.