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For Birds and Fish, records not created equal

MIAMI - For the Eagles, a 4-8 record stinks. For the Miami Dolphins, 4-8 represents a huge improvement.

MIAMI - For the Eagles, a 4-8 record stinks.

For the Miami Dolphins, 4-8 represents a huge improvement.

The Dolphins lost their first seven games before staging a dramatic turnaround and outscoring opponents by 85 points over the last five weeks. They remain last in the AFC East and will sit out the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years, but their locker room's a happy place, and Las Vegas oddsmakers now give coach Tony Sparano better than a 50-50 chance to return next season.

"We haven't had this much fun in a while," safety Yeremiah Bell said. "Nobody likes to lose. For us to have won four games, you've got to say it feels good."

The Dolphins will meet their equal Sunday when they face the Eagles - except not all 4-8 records are created equal. While Miami has been blowing teams out, the underachieving Eagles have lost four of their last five games. They've been beaten in the last two games by 17 and 18 points, and since late last season they've lost 11 of 15.

Their best hope is for Michael Vick to inspire a late-season surge. He's expected to start against Miami after missing the last three games with broken ribs.

"We've still got an opportunity after everything that we've been through, even though I think our situation should have been different," Vick said. "The most important thing is to go out there and have fun."

That's what the Dolphins have been doing, but it's easy to have fun when you're blowing teams out. Sparano said the team is even more enjoyable than his 2008 squad, which made a surprising run to the AFC East title.

"This is the best bunch of guys, the most fun bunch of guys I've been around," Sparano said.

They're trying to save the coach's job, and with fans disenchanted and attendance in decline, that may be impossible. But everyone credits Sparano for preventing the season from becoming a catastrophe.

He's had help from quarterback Matt Moore, who is making the most of his longest stint as an NFL starter after Chad Henne suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Moore has thrown eight touchdown passes in the last five games with only one interception.

Moore is eager to keep playing well so he can strengthen his claim on a starting job in 2012.

"Opportunities in this league are few and far between," he said.

The defense is much-improved, too. Over the last five games, Miami has allowed four touchdowns, two of them meaningless after the outcome was settled.

In the last three games, the Dolphins have stopped opponents in 28 of 32 third-down situations.

"They're one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL," Eagles center Jason Kelce said. "They do a really good job of mixing things up."