Miami Dolphins: Surviving brutal division


This year, more than any year I can remember, the AFC East seems to be shaking up to be one of the toughest divisions in all of the NFL. We all know who resides in this division: the reigning Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots. To say the Patriots have dominated this division for more than a decade would be an understatement; with the exception of one year, mainly due to the season ending injury that Tom Brady suffered in 2008, the Patriots have won the division every year since #12 stepped foot on the field for an injured Drew Bledsoe. I think any rational person can see the lack of competition that has gone on in this division since Brady and Belichick have come to town—they’ve completely owned the three other teams unlucky enough to fins themselves there.

With that, it’s no surprise that the Dolphins biggest competition will once again come from the hands of the Patriots, but the rest of the division has gotten stronger and wins will not come easily. Making up the rest of the division—sputtering along and almost completely out of gas—comes the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. These two teams, along with the Dolphins, have merely been a minuscule thorn in the side of the Patriots.

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We all know the additions the Dolphins have made this year, but the Bills and Jets have also done some repair work and refueled their engines, as well. On paper, these two teams look to have gotten better and seem to be more ready than ever to block the Dolphins’ way and challenge the dominance of a Brady-led Patriots team—if the Dolphins don’t have anything to say about it.

If there’s one thing that Dolphins fans understand, it’s the fact that Ryan Tannehill’s Achilles heel has been the Buffalo Bills. In fact, in his three seasons with Miami, Tannehill has been a disappointing 2-4 and completely looks out of rhythm as he’s running for his life and being pounded into the turf every time he faces the wrath that is the Bills defense. To make matters worse, the Bills, with one of the best defenses in all of football last year, have just added another defensive guru, Rex Ryan, as their head coach. The combination of Ryan and an already dominant defense is a scary combination for the rest of the AFC East, particularly a Tannehill-led Dolphins team.

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  • Remember, besides the Patriots, the Bills were the only other team in the division to showcase a winning record—mainly due to their ferocious front seven. Their front seven will remain dominant and it will continue to be hard to run the ball on them and to keep Tannehill free of any grass and dirt stains on his plush white jersey. The Bills problem, however, has always been consistent: lack of QB talent. Fortunately for the Dolphins, the quarterback will remain a concern for the 2015 Buffalo Bills and they will more than likely continue to struggle to put points on the scoreboard. If the Dolphins can take advantage of scoring early and not making mistakes this could be the first time Tannehill can beat the Bills in both scheduled meetings—if he remains alive to do so.

    Of course, the last two seasons have ended the exact same way for the Miami Dolphins: losses to the New York Jets in the season finale. There’s no denying Dolphins fans hatred for their division foe, but with the addition of arguably the best defensive back in the league Darrell Revis, their already top-ranked defense has just gotten a lot stronger. Like the Bills, the Jets strength is their defense, and things should remain the same this season. Revis gives the Jets the luxury of completely shutting down one side of the field. Revis also has the capability of zoning in on opponent’s best receivers, disturbing their routes, and making them a non-factor in any game. Pairing Revis with an already great defense, the Jets will be a hard out for the entire division.

    Dec 28, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is sacked in the second half at Sun Life Stadium. The Jets defeated Miami 37-24. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

    Now with a receiving core of Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, and newly drafted Devin Smith out of Ohio State, the Jets strength on offense could easily rest on the shoulders of their very talented receiving corps. But again, the Jets similarities with the Bills don’t just stop on the defensive side of the ball; they reside on the offensive side, as well. The Jets, like the Bills, don’t have a reliable quarterback. Unless Geno Smith proves everyone wrong in his third NFL season and surprises everyone under the sun, the offensive struggles will continue in New York.

    Look, there’s no denying the division has become stronger. Divisional games will continue to be highlighted by Dolphins players, coaches, and their fans. Although the Dolphins have made a plethora of key additions to their roster, this year looks to be one of the tightest in a division that continues to get better. The Dolphins will once again have their hands full within the division. But unfortunately for the rest of the teams residing in the AFC East, the Dolphins have gotten better too. Considering how tough the AFC East seems to be on paper, it will be interesting to see how this year pans out for the Miami Dolphins. If successful, they sure as hell deserve some respect.