Detroit is atop the NFC North with a 6-2 record, a position strikingly similar to where the Lions were around this time last year. After starting 6-3 in 2013, they ended up 7-9, frittering away a great chance to make the playoffs. So it's understandable that fans are a bit cautious in their excitement this season.
"That's a natural reaction because it's happened. It's imploded before," center Dominic Raiola said. "But this is different, this is a new year."
The most obvious difference is a new coaching staff. Jim Caldwell took the helm last offseason after Jim Schwartz was fired. Although Detroit's offense has not taken off under the new regime, the Lions have generally been able to avoid the types of mistakes in the fourth quarter that plagued them last year.
And in their upcoming clash with streaking Miami they get their best player Calvin Johnson back.
Over the past five games, Miami's Ryan Tannehill has been the best player on the Dolphins. He has a passer rating of 104.1 while completing 68 percent of his attempts and averaging 8.2 yards per attempt. He has led the Dolphins (5-3) to three consecutive victories, and they're above .500 at midseason for the first time since 2003.
"He's the reason we're playing well," guard Mike Pouncey said.
The Dolphins (5-3) have also forced 10 turnovers over the past three games, their best such stretch of takeaways since 2004, helping them take a three-game winning streak to Detroit on Sunday.
Because Miami's offense has been holding onto the ball, the result is a turnover differential of plus-6 this season. That's tied for sixth in the NFL, and especially notable because the Dolphins haven't finished a season in the plus column since 2008.
Not coincidentally, that's the last time they made the playoffs.