With all the hype of the preseason being over, The Miami Dolphins have a tough 2016 ahead. With a tough schedule that does them no favors, Miami may have to win a few more close games. Improving on a 6-10 record with an interim head coach shouldn’t be too hard. However, if Miami’s history of underperforming continues, it’ll be a hard year for Dolphins’ fans. Here’s a game by game prediction for each opponent.
Week 1 (n/a):Seattle Seahawks
A lot of names and faces have come and gone since the Dolphins last beat the Seahawks. Seattle will be the first test of the new fast-paced offense against a tough Seahawk defense. Miami’s wide-9 might be able to keep Russel Wilson inside the pocket and force a few mistakes. However, by the end of the game, defense will outlast Miami’s offense and Seattle hands Miami their first loss of the season.
Week 2 (0-1): New England Patriots:
The Patriots at home is one of Miami’s toughest games all season. However, with quarterback Tom Brady out until week 5 and the Patriots injury list growing along the offensive line the game just got a little easier. Division rivals are never an easy game, especially in the AFC East. Expect a close game out of this matchup. With playmaker Rob Gronkowski still on the field, Miami still will have their handsful. Gronkowski has made career backups a lot of money when they’ve signed with new teams. Miami should expect a heavy dose of plays to the tough-to-takedown tight end. In the end, Miami squeaks out a win by a field goal.
Week 3 (1-1): Cleveland Browns
With Cleveland seemingly forever in the rebuilding stage, you never know what you’re going to get. the team could start off fast and loud and then fall off into NFL oblivion. They also can start off slow and never recover. Even with the new connection of RGIII to Terrell Pryor in the preseason, Cleveland still seems to be treading water. This should be a game Miami can win but they’ll still leave fans biting their finger nails.
Week 4 (2-1): Cincinnati Bengals
This game is where things start to get a little rocky. Cincinnati has all the talent you’d hope for in a team. The problem is they can never get going in the clutch. The Dolphins and Bengals quarterbacks mirror each other in terms of reception. Either they’re one big game from breaking out, or fans assume it’s time to move on from them. There is no in between. Cincinnati is known for falling apart late in the year not early on. Another coin toss game, however, Miami comes away with their second loss.
Week 5 (2-2): Tennessee Titans
Tennessee just may be one of those up and coming teams to look out for. Young, hungry talent that can quickly throw a team out of rhythm. Tennessee’s season will be greatly influenced by how quickly they can come together as a unit. If they struggle to gel early on, look for teams to take advantage. If they start the season with both offense and defense on the same page opponents could be in trouble. Miami should have the upper hand in this game with their new fast-paced offense.
Week 6 (3-2): Pittsburgh Steelers
Out of Miami’s entire schedule, the Steelers game is the hardest to predict. Somehow, someway, these two teams always manage to either take it down to the wire or end up in a snooze-fest where the only points are field goals.The Steelers offense should have their way with the Miami defense but Miami should be able to hang around. Neither team resembled their defenses of old last season and the game could be an air show. Unfortunately for Miami, it’s hard to bet against the Ben Rothlisberger/Antonio Brown connection. Miami is handed their third loss of the season.
Week 7 (3-3): Buffalo Bills
Miami’s second divisional game will give them fits. Of the two teams, neither has lived up to early expectations. While both teams have had talent on both sides of the ball, they always seem to come up short. This matchup will come down to the up-tempo passing offense against a ground-and-pound run first offense. Two different schools of thought will be on display, but ultimately Miami should keep the pace fast enough to win at home.
Week 8 (4-3):BYE
A much-needed week off. Miami’s bye week will come after facing two opponents back-to-back that can wear them down. Having a break at the mid-way point will be key for the Dolphins’ next few games.
Week 9 (4-3): New York Jets.
Miami faces their final division rival in Miami. It’ll be good news and bad news for the Dolphins. Playing the Jets and Bills early in the season at home means they’ll play them in the cold late in the season. On the plus side. Miami will have the extra week to get ready while the Jets might be limping in. Up until week 9, they face Bengals, Bills, Chiefs, Seahawks, Steelers, Cardinals and Ravens defenses. While the Jets enjoyed success through the air last season, that gauntlet of teams will bang up some starters. Miami should get out to an early lead they never give back.
Week 10 (5-3): San Diego Chargers
San Diego is another opponent Miami should worry about early in the year. Luckily for Miami, they don’t play them early in the year. San Diego always gets out to a fast start and has playoff hopes. Then, for whatever reason, they cool right off. Hopefully for the Dolphins’ they start to cool before week 10. Defensively the Chargers might not have enough to handle the depth of Miami’s receivers and the Dolphins should walk away with a win.
Week 11 (6-3): Los Angeles Rams
The Rams could be a team to sneak up on opponents this season. They’ve always had a defense that can keep games close, but their offense never gave them any rest. With a handful of young receivers, the Rams should keep Miami’s defense on their toes. However, it’s their quarterback that is cause for concern. Case Keenum isn’t the quarterback of the future for the Rams and will serve as a bridge to Goff. If Keenum struggles, Goff could be thrown into the fire sooner than later to keep the team afloat. Whether it’s Keenum or Goff, expect more close games than expected out of LA. Miami probably pulls out a last second field goal to break Rams fan’s hearts.
Week 12 (7-3); San Francisco 49ers:
There are a handful of hurdles stacked up against the 49ers for this game. The NFL season hasn’t been pretty for west coast teams who come east. They’ve got quarterback controversy even though Blaine Gabbert is starting the season their go-to quarterback. Even their now backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn’t doing the team any favors with his distractions. Kaepernick needs to do what he’s done best this preseason, sit down and learn to shut up. When a team has new coaches, new talent, and a new playbook the last thing they need is a distraction. Miami should have no issues walking away with a win in a home game.
Week 13 (8-3): Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore is a team that could use a little help. Injuries haven’t been too kind the past season. With that being said, Baltimore will be getting a few key additions back. Look for this to be a back and forth game. Unfortunately for Raven fans, this will be another close game the team lets slip away.
Week 14 (9-3): Arizona Cardinals
Here’s where the wheels start to come off the wagon. Arizona is one of, if not the most well-rounded football teams in the league. While it is true they struggle in their last few games every year, a healthy Cardinals team is tough to beat. The Cardinals just have too much talent for the Dolphins to match up against. Miami might be in a year or so what the Cardinals are today. Unfortunately, we live in the present and Arizona should win this game by at least 12.
Week 15 (9-4): New York Jets
Remember those cold divisional games mentioned above? This one is a prime example.Playing New York, at their home field, in December means there will be snow on the ground. Cold air will ground a passing game quick. Unless Miami can figure out their run game to break up the passing game, this game could be ugly. Sure, Miami will still be able to pass the ball but that cold December air takes its toll. Injuries happen late in the season for these upper-eastern teams. If Miami can’t limit hits on their receivers this late in the year, expect one to go down. Jets have enough footage from their first matchup to turn the tables at home. Miami loses back to back.
Week 16 (9-5): Buffalo Bills
Bills fans never have to worry about their friends asking them “How’s the weather up there?” in December. It’s cold. Bitter cold. The cold is Buffalo’s biggest ally and worst enemy. Not only does it take it’s toll on opponents, it’s a key component on why the team trails off come season’s end. Except for the Bills can claim they have what the Dolphins don’t, a stellar run game. Buffalo led the league in rushing yards last season and still has the depth this year. A healthy Tyrod Taylor will keep the game from being one dimensional. The Dolphins won’t have an answer this time around and the Dolphins split the series.
Week 17 (9-6): New England Patriots
If fans thought Brady wouldn’t come back with a vengeance, think again. Bill Bellichick and company will pull their usual brand of harassment and pull every trick in the book. Expect the Patriots to take it out on divisions rivals the most. New England will have to make up enough ground should Jimmy Garoppolo struggle early on. By week 17, and their third vision rival in a row, the Dolphins will have had all they can handle. Losing to the Patriots at home, crushing playoff hopes, will no doubt be the stake through the heart of Dolphins fans.
Sorry Dol-fans. They had a nice run midway through the season but don’t get excited. Their final 4 games will be their toughest challenge. As fans you should know better, Miami goes missing in December. Now keep in mind that this is the NFL. “Any given Sunday” has become more of a reality with the league’s rule changes and focus on safety. Injuries are a given. Upsets will happen. However, while Gase will have the Dolphins on the right path, their ceiling remains at 9-7 until they show up on the field. Miami’s strength of schedule is not in their favor and even the “easy” games could go either way. When it’s all said and done, Miami pulls off a winning season, but barely.