With all due respect to the players the New England Patriots, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills have added this offseason – OK, I probably shouldn’t include the Bills – there was no bigger potential addition in this division than the Dolphins trading for Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Behind Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, the Dolphins were fourth in the NFL in rushing last season on their way to a 7-9 record one season after winning the AFC East. But they were 20th in yards per game passing under Chad Henne, and the Fins had just 15 touchdown passes (27th in the NFL) and 29 completions of more than 20 yards, which was better than only the inept Cleveland Browns.
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Miami had 331 completions last year, and Marshall had nearly a third of that by himself with the Broncos after another All-Pro season with 101 catches (record 21 in a game) for 1,120 yards and 10 TDs despite sitting out the season finale due to a team-issued suspension. Marshall did have offseason hip surgery but should be fine by the opener. The Fins haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2005.
And look for Williams and Brown – the latter who is reportedly near 100 percent after last season was cut short by an injury – to have big seasons because both are in the final years of their contracts.
The Dolphins did lose Jason Ferguson, Joey Porter and Jason Taylor, among others, off their defense from last year, but added the top free agent linebacker on the market in Arizona’s Karlos Dansby. Perhaps the biggest addition was coordinator Mike Nolan from Denver, as this team will now be much more aggressive on defense. Cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith both started games as rookies and should be much improved as sophomores. The Miami defense ranked just 26th in the NFL last season, giving up 24.4 points per game.
WagerWeb lists Miami’s ;over/under; for NFL season win totals at 8.5. Let’s break down the 2010 Miami Dolphins schedule:
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, NY Jets, 8:20 PM
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 4, New England, 8:30 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, at Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Thursday, Nov. 18, Chicago, 8:20 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at NY Jets, 4:15 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at New England, 1:00 PM
This is ranked right in the middle of the 32 teams in strength at a tie for 16th with an opponents’ 2009 winning percentage of .500 (128-128). There are eight games against playoff teams from last year. Miami plays eight road games and six will be against 2009 playoff teams.
Miami needs to learn to start fast. Last year the Dolphins were 0-3 out of the gate. In 2008, they were 0-2 to start. And in 2007 the Fins were 0-13. Miami better win at Buffalo to open the season because then the schedule gets hellacious for a while. However, the Bills thumped Miami at Ralph Wilson Stadium last year. Actually the 31-14 score was misleading as Buffalo scored 24 unanswered points, all in the fourth quarter.
Weeks 2 through 9 will likely determine Miami’s season. Let’s see, you have the Vikings (NFC title game last year), Jets (AFC title game last year), Patriots (AFC East champs last year), Packers (NFC North favorites this year; playoff team last year), Steelers (likely playoff team this year and which beat the Fins in Week 17 last year), Bengals (reigning AFC North champs), Ravens (playoff team last year, AFC North favorites this year). If there’s a tougher stretch for any team in the league, I don’t know one that could compare. And I’m not even including two very possible playoff teams in Weeks 10 and 11 in the Titans (beat Miami last year) and Bears.
So that’s the bad news. Here’s the good: In Weeks 12 through 16, the Dolphins play teams that were a combined 27-53 last year with only the Jets having a winning record. And Miami beat the Jets twice in 2009. Hard to see the Fins winning in the elements in New England to close the year out, however. This will be the ninth time in 11 seasons the Dolphins end on the road. It’s not a good thing that Miami’s final two games against the other AFC East contenders, the Jets and Pats, both likely will be in very cold weather.
I think that rough midseason stretch kills this team’s playoff hopes and the Fins go 8-8. Miami is +300 to win the AFC East, but it simply isn’t better than the Pats or Jets.
Allen Eastman is back with his 99 System for NFL picks in 2010 and before he even came across this system he was considered one of the best NFL handicappers in the business – now he is just unstoppable. Last season the 99 System was 27-13 ATS and this system not only helped his clients make a boatload of money, but also helped Eastman to third place in the prestigious Las Vegas Hilton NFL Contest.