One day, one of the best trivia questions in sports history will be: Who started for the Miami Dolphins at quarterback in their lone playoff game of the 2016 season? Once you’re done reminding yourself that the Dolphins did indeed have a cameo appearance in the postseason last year, you’ll perhaps remember that Matt Moore started that game in Pittsburgh.
Ryan Tannehill though, deserves most of the credit for all that went right in last year’s 10-6 campaign. After starting 1-4 in Adam Gase’s first year at South Beach, the Fins rolled off six straight victories, scoring at least 27 points in five of the six games.
But who are we kidding? The Dolphins played in eight games from Week 3 through the end of the season that were decided by a touchdown or less, and they went 8-0 in those games. That’s not sustainable. It’s a sure sign that this is a club pointed towards regression unless Tannehill takes some massive steps forward this season. Invest in the Fins in our NFL Pick ‘Em Contests at your own risk.
Why the Dolphins Will Overachieve in 2017
Adam Gase proves to be the offensive genius he was cracked up to be when first brought to Miami. He reinvigorates the career of Julius Thomas by reuniting with him from their Denver days. Suddenly, the ability to stretch the field from multiple angles is legit. Thomas can use the seam, while Kenny Stills can streak just about anywhere. DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry continue to do the dirty underneath work. But the real key here is forcing safeties to stay out of the box so Jay Ajayi can do some plodding. Ajayi rumbles for over 1,500 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
The defense? It still needs some work. Cameron Wake has one more really good season on the left side of the defensive line. Rookie Charles Harris proves to be a force in obvious passing situations opposite of Wake. Incremental improvements against the run leaves Miami with a shot against pass-first teams like the Bucs, Saints and Falcons early in the season. Sure, the Chargers, Titans, Chiefs and Broncos run the Dolphins off the field, but a repeat of last year’s 10-win season and a berth in the playoffs is more than acceptable.
Why the Dolphins Will Underachieve in 2017
This season largely represents the end of Tannehill’s career as an NFL quarterback. Miami is outworked by Tampa Bay and San Diego in Weeks 1 and 2, and the grumbling starts about Tannehill being replaced as the starter after he ranks dead last in the NFL in quarterback rating. By October, Matt Moore is taking snaps under center. Gase grows frustrated with the man who is supposed to be the cornerstone of his franchise, and the Dolphins cut Tannehill on the cheap during the offseason.
Ndamukong Suh gets suspended for two games in the middle of the season because Roger Goodell didn’t like the cross-eyed look Suh gave Ed Hochuli. Wake’s body finally falls apart because pass rushers flat out don’t make it in the NFL at 35.
Miami’s floor ends up being a little higher than most suspect thanks to how weak the AFC East is, but going from 10-6 to 6-10 won’t be looked upon kindly.
2017 Miami Dolphins Schedule
Week 1: vs. Buccaneers
Week 2: at Chargers
Week 3: at Jets
Week 4: vs. Saints
Week 5: vs. Titans
Week 6: at Falcons
Week 7: vs. Jets
Week 8: at Ravens
Week 9: vs. Raiders
Week 10: at Panthers
Week 11: Bye
Week 12: at Patriots
Week 13: vs. Broncos
Week 14: vs. Patriots
Week 15: at Bills
Week 16: at Chiefs
Week 17: vs. Bills
Dolphins Pick ‘Em Contest Best Bet: Week 4 vs. Saints
The way you beat the Dolphins is by outworking them at the line of scrimmage, and the Saints can’t do that. They ranked dead last in the NFL against the run last season, and though they added Adrian Peterson to their backfield, they didn’t do enough along their offensive line to make us think he can be effective. Simply put: Advantage to Miami on both lines of scrimmage, and that’s good enough for us to have confidence in the hosts in Week 4.
Dolphins Pick ‘Em Contest Top Fade: Week 2 at Chargers
It’ll be interesting to see how teams adapt to playing at the relatively small StubHub Center this year. This will be the Chargers’ first game at their new home, and the fans that are there should be rabid and right on top of the action. The emotion of it all is only one factor, though. Assuming Keenan Allen can survive one game without breaking something, he should be healthy in Week 2, and that could make Philip Rivers and this offense potentially devastating.