Look around ‘Phins fans, the view from the top is sweet. Miami has climbed into the top 10 in the latest CBS Sports power rankings. They put away a good Indianapolis team on both sides of the ball in the closing minutes. Turnovers are coming in, and rarely going out. Kicking the ball on special teams in Miami appears to come with a Superman cape. Wake and Odrick are showing up as dominant in Monday Morning QB and Peter King’s columns. These guys look pretty damn good.
I won’t pretend it’s all sunshine and rainbows. After a more promising performance from the running game against a less than stellar Colts defense, they need to get the ball moving. The offensive line, and in particular Tyson Clabo, needs to step up a bit more. However, every team has areas that need improvement. Miami is a damn good football team, and the scariest bit is that they have the room and ability to get better as the season wears on.
Miami has two tough games in a row coming up. The home opener is this weekend against a tough Atlanta team. Atlanta has a high octane offense, but their defense is playing at a less than pedestrian level. With Miami’s offense playing the way it is, this game has the potential to turn into a shoot out that Miami will need to heavily rely on their defense in. If the front seven can tear through the Falcons offensive line, Miami could pull off the win in a tough home opener.
Looking past the Falcons, Miami goes on the road against New Orleans. This game has the potential to be the toughest contest for Miami this season, at least based on how teams are playing right now. The Saints have a tough defense with new DC Rob Ryan, and have only allowed an average of 15.5 points through two games. Jimmy Graham is making a strong case as one of the top tight ends in football, and could give the Dolphins defense a few fits. New Orleans did struggle against a terrible Tampa Bay team in week 2, but found a way to win. This game has the potential to be a complete and total slug fest on both sides of the ball in the national spotlight on ESPN.
Once Miami gets through this two game stretch, the schedule looks pedestrian at best. The Ravens are a shell of the team they were last year and will come to Miami in week 5 before Miami’s bye week in week 6. Miami has a decent contest against a very beatable Bills team at home following the bye week, and then travels to New England in Week 8 to face a Patriots team that sits at 2-0 by some miracle, as they have looked absolutely terrible through the first two weeks of the season. I think the Pats should recover enough to look respectable by that point, but unless they find a way to protect Brady between now and then, as well as find someone besides Edelman who can catch the ball, they might finally be a team that has come crashing violently back down to earth.
Miami’s toughest contest following the bye week could potentially be their week 9 matchup in prime time on Thursday night at home against the Bengals on Halloween. No receiver in football scares me more than AJ Green, and Brent Grimes (one of the newest members of my man crush list) will need help defending against him. Cincy’s defense has looked good, and Dalton appears to have taken a step forward. This has the possibility to be a wild game and (along with the Saints game) has game of the year potential for the Dolphins.
Following a tough Thursday night against Cincy, Miami will have almost two weeks to prepare for a surprisingly terrible Tampa Bay team in prime time. Budding stories in the media have conflicts between Schiano and his offensive and defensive leaders (Freeman and Revis), and the Bucs seem to be a team that finds a way to lose no matter how long the odds to do so. This could be a game where Miami lights it up on both sides of the ball, and could serve as a coming out party for Miami to put other teams on notice.
The Chargers are currently playing well above their potential at the moment, and I expect them to cool off a bit between now and week 11. Projecting the stats based on their play thus far, Rivers is on pace to throw for 56 touchdowns this season, with Eddie Royal catching 80 balls with 40 TD’s. Anyone reading this should be able to make the leap that unless we’re all currently living in an episode of the twilight zone, the Chargers are a team that is primed to come crashing back down to earth. This could be another close game that Miami pulls out, or a team that will be imploding by this point in the season to give Miami the easy win.
Weeks 12-17 of the season might appear to be the easiest stretch in the NFL for a team with a winning record after two weeks. Forget the past and watch the first two weeks of play for the teams that Miami will face, and Miami should come out of this stretch with at least a 5-1 record. Starting with a home game against the Panthers, Miami will then travel to face the Jets and Steelers, play at home against the Pats, travel to the Bills and wrap things up at home against the Jets.
The home game against the Jets in week 17 has the potential to be a loss for the Dolphins, as with the way their schedule is shaping up Miami may be either resting their starters for the game, or pulling their starters early. I don’t see a game on here that isn’t winnable, nor a team that strikes fear into my heart to play against – especially following the bye week. Miami potentially may have played the best team that they’ll face already in the Colts, and this could be a fun season to be a Dolphins fan. Buckle up folks, it should be a fun ride.
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