The Miami Dolphins had a rather unusual season in 2017. Ryan Tannehill was lost to injury before the season began, which threw a wrench into the team’s plans. They tried to plug Jay Cutler into the starting spot after convincing him to come out of retirement, but he didn’t get the job done. After a promising 4-2 start, the Dolphins lost eight of their final 10 games to finish the season 6-10.
Despite that poor record, head coach Adam Gase will get a chance to turn things around. Gase led the Dolphins to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance in 2016, so he’s capable of getting things in Miami back on track. However, turning a six-win team into a playoff team could be easier said than done.
The oddsmakers are not buying into Miami as a Super Bowl threat. The Dolphins are one of several teams listed at +15,000 to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy. While they aren’t hopeless, the Dolphins are definitely not worth the long shot bet. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are projected to win seven games in 2018, which may be a number Miami can surpass if things break well for them.
Obviously, Tannehill coming back is a positive, but he still has much to prove. Despite going 8-5 as a starter under Gase in 2016, Tannehill still has a losing record in his career. Gase remains high on him, even coming back from a serious injury and a season on the sidelines. But he needs to show that he’s healthy and then become far more than a game manager if he’s going to lead the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2018.
The plan for Tannehill is to spread the ball around to at least three or four different receivers. Jarvis Landry is no longer in Miami, but the Dolphins brought in Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson to help replace him. Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker are also back in the fold. There may be no obvious superstar in that group, but having four reputable passing targets could end up working.
Of course, the Dolphins need to be able to run the ball, and they’ll look to Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore to accomplish that. Drake finished last season strong after the team traded away Jay Ajayi. Gore should also have something left in the tank at the end of his career. However, neither is necessarily a home run threat.
Fortunately for the Dolphins, they appear to have upgraded their offensive line to help keep Tannehill protected. Veterans Daniel Kilgore and Josh Sitton should be instant upgrades at center and left guard, respectively. However, the Dolphins need more consistency out of tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James, who are both former first-round picks.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins are hopeful that playing so many young players last season will start to pay dividends this season. A big key will be young defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Jordan Phillips helping to fill the void left by Ndamukong Suh. Fortunately, the Dolphins have good depth at defensive end with Robert Quinn coming over to team up with Cameron Wake. Andre Branch, William Hayes, and last year’s first-round pick Charles Harris should help provide good depth at defensive end.
Linebacker, however, is surprisingly uncertain for the Dolphins despite the presence of Kiko Alonso. Miami needs more from Stephone Anthony, who could be pushed for his starting job. The Dolphins are also hopeful but unsure what they’ll get out of middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who missed his entire rookie reason last year due to injury.
In the secondary, the Dolphins should have at last three cornerbacks they trust, starting with Xavien Howard. The emergency of Cordrea Tankersley last season gives Miami good depth behind Howard and Bobby McCain. Meanwhile, the Dolphins return a productive safety tandem in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald while also adding first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick to the mix.
Overall, the Miami defense should be solid if unspectacular. They don’t stand out in any one area but also shouldn’t have too many glaring weaknesses. But that still leaves a lot of pressure on Tannehill and the offense. Unless Tannehill can come back from injury playing at a higher level than he did in 2016, it could be a struggle for the Dolphins to reach .500 and stay in the playoff hunt.
|Sep 9||Tennessee Titans||1:00 PM|
|Sep 16||@ New York Jets||1:00 PM|
|Sep 23||Oakland Raiders||1:00 PM|
|Sep 30||@ New England Patriots||1:00 PM|
|Oct 7||@ Cincinnati Bengals||1:00 PM|
|Oct 14||Chicago Bears||1:00 PM|
|Oct 21||Detroit Lions||1:00 PM|
|Oct 25||@ Houston Texans||8:20 PM|
|Nov 4||New York Jets||1:00 PM|
|Nov 11||@ Green Bay Packers||1:00 PM|
|Nov 25||@ Indianapolis Colts||1:00 PM|
|Dec 2||Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM|
|Dec 9||New England Patriots||1:00 PM|
|Dec 16||@ Minnesota Vikings||1:00 PM|
|Dec 23||Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM|
|Dec 30||@ Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM|
If the Dolphins are going to make any noise in 2018, they have to get off to a fast start. They finish the season with five straight games against teams that went to the playoffs last season, including three that played in a conference championship game. The first half of their schedule is manageable, but only if they hit the ground running.
Week 1: vs Titans – Loss
Tannehill still has plenty of rust to shake off, and it shows in the opener against a solid Tennessee defense.
Week 2: at Jets – Win
The Dolphins catch a break by playing the Jets early in the year while they’re still trying to figure out their quarterback situation.
Week 3: vs Raiders – Win
Miami’s power running game of Drake and Gore works to perfection against an Oakland defense that has trouble getting up for an early game on the east coast.
Week 4: at Patriots – Loss
Just another trip to New England that ends in a loss. Tom Brady shakes off a slow first half with a magnificent performance in the second half to give the Patriots an easy win.
Week 5: at Bengals – Loss
The Dolphins head to Cincinnati and find a Bengals team that’s desperate for a win. Miami’s linebackers have a rough afternoon trying to contain Joe Mixon.
Week 6: vs Bears – Win
The Miami pass rush has a good game, as they’re able to get in the face of Mitch Trubisky. With a good defensive effort, it doesn’t take much from the Miami offense to get a win.
Week 7: vs Lions – Win
The Dolphins have managed to ride their running game to this point in the season, but Tannehill finally has his first impressive outing of the season, out-performing Matt Stafford to beat the Lions.
Week 8: at Texans – Loss
The Dolphins have to travel to Houston on a Thursday night, which is a tough matchup for them. The offense struggles to get going while Deshaun Watson runs circles around Miami’s defense.
Week 9: vs Jets – Win
With a little extra time to prepare, the Dolphins are more than ready to take care of business against the Jets, who look helpless on the road.
Week 10: at Packers – Loss
Tannehill puts together a solid performance, but he still can’t keep up with Aaron Rodgers, who embarrasses the Miami defense.
Week 11: Bye
Week 12: at Colts – Win
After the bye, Tannehill is well-rested and has no problem picking apart a mediocre Indianapolis defense, giving the Dolphins an easy win.
Week 13: vs Bills – Win
This game is close into the 4th quarter when the Dolphins start getting pressure on the quarterback. Tannehill leads one great drive to give the Dolphins the lead and the Miami defense does the rest.
Week 14: vs Patriots – Win
The Dolphins pull off a massive upset. The Miami pass rush does just enough to make Brady uncomfortable and force a couple turnovers that decide the game. However, it will be Miami’s last win of the season.
Week 15: at Vikings – Loss
Minnesota’s defense proves too difficult on the road. The Dolphins don’t give up a lot of points, but they don’t score enough to get the win.
Week 16: vs Jaguars – Loss
The Dolphins come up a little short in the battle of Florida. Jacksonville’s defense proves to be too good for Tannehill and company.
Week 17: at Bills – Loss
The Dolphins can’t seem to handle the cold weather in Buffalo at the end of December. The Bills stuff the run while Tannehill is helpless to make plays in the cold and windy conditions.