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Do the Miami Dolphins have the NFL's best defense?

There are a lot of surprising things about Sunday's matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions:

  1. It looks like the best game of Week 10, which would have been a crazy thought before the season.
  1. We'd take the Dolphins' offense and Ryan Tannehill over Detroit's scheme and Matthew Stafford.
  1. The matchup could include the best two defenses in the league, and there's a strong argument that the Dolphins are now the best.

Miami has given up the fewest yards per play of any team in the NFL (4.68) and they are tied for second in takeaways with 18. Essentially, it's a sound defense that still makes a ton of big plays.

Consider the last three weeks. The Dolphins dominated the Bears' offense in Chicago, giving up only 13 points. Miami's defense scored more points (14) than they gave up against Jacksonville (13). Last week, the Dolphins notched a shutout against Philip Rivers, one of the top quarterbacks in football.

The Lions can make a claim as the league's best defense as well: They rank No. 1 in points allowed, yards allowed and in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. (The Dolphins are No. 2). When I watch Miami on Game Rewind, however, they have more options to make game-changing plays than Detroit.

Miami's defense starts with the best pass-rushing duo east of Denver. Cameron Wake has been a top-three player at his position for years, and hasn't slowed down. Olivier Vernon is backing up his breakout 2013 campaign with even better play this season. It was almost comical how many times Wake and Vernon "met at the quarterback" against San Diego.

The Dolphins defensive line is impressive because of its depth. Last year's No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan will be getting into the mix more after coming off a suspension. Jared Odrick and Randy Starks push the pocket and stop the run. Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell has proven to be a terrific free-agent signing.

Move past the line, and you have an emerging star at linebacker in Jelani Jenkins. Cornerback Brent Grimes is incredible at jump balls despite his size, and safety Reshad Jones is one of the most versatile players at his position. Even fifth-year linebacker Koa Misi, usually a bit player, made some splash plays against San Diego.

Defenses are tougher to predict annually than offenses. Like a major league bullpen or an NFL offensive line, there is something undefinable about what makes defenses excel. Miami clearly has enough talent, and the Dolphins now look like a group that is feeding off one other. They look like a group that knows they can be great.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews every Week 10 game and recaps the Browns' blowout win over the Bengals. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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