AT THE HALF

There are two ways to look at the first half of the 2002 season from the Dolphins perspective. The half-full look focuses on the fact that the Dolphins stand alone in first place in the AFC East. The half-empty approach looks at the current two-game losing streak and the precarious situation at quarterback with Jay Fiedler sidelined and Ray Lucas hurting.

At 5-3, the Dolphins find themselves in solid contention for the sixth consecutive playoff berth. But they suddenly don't like anything like the Super Bowl contenders they appeared to be after their big victory at Denver on Oct. 13.

Things figure to get better once Fiedler returns from his broken thumb, but nobody knows when that will happen.

"He said San Diego (on Nov. 24). I think that would be real optmistic," said Coach Dave Wannstedt. "In my mind, I'm hoping Buffalo up there (on Dec. 1). Until the bone heals, it's conversation, it doesn't make any difference.

"If he walked out there tomorrow and the bone was healed, we would start the rehab process and get him ready. It could be six weeks, too. The doctors cannot be exact with that. Everybody heals differently and at a different pace."

In the meantime, the Dolphins have to find a way to get some wins and stop the bleeding.

"We've got to win the game (against the Jets)," Lucas said. "We've got to win A game. They're not going to cancel the rest of the games because we're playing like (crap). We've got to play. We've got to win a game. We're not playing good football right now. We're really not."

But the Dolphins also did many good things in the first half of the season, otherwise they wouldn't have won five games.

And that's what Wannstedt chose to focus on when he was asked to evaluate the first eight games.

Said Wannstedt: "We're in first place in the division. We're 5-3. Other than quarterback, we're reasonably healthy for the most part. We basically have control of our division and our own destiny. You always like to have that going for you. We won some games on the road, obviously at Denver and Indy. So we know we are capable of doing that.

"Now, the back half of the season, we've just got to take them one at a time and it's an eight-week season and that's how we need to approach it."


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