The Miami Dolphins will play the Tennessee Titans this week and it will be the first game for new coach Dan Campbell. How well his team responds to his “change in culture” mantra will be the biggest question heading into the weekend.
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The next question is whether Campbell can turn a 1-3 football team into a competitive team that can push for a playoff spot. If he can, and if the Dolphins can make a serious run at the post season, Campbell will likely continue as the head coach. Thus far in the short week since he was promoted, nothing negative has been said about his approach. No one, not fans, not the players, and not the media are laughing when he says they are in this to win.
Assuming that Campbell can indeed turn the team around how well can this team do with him at the helm? How will the players react defensively to new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo? If it’s positive and they can play to the level of talent they have, the Dolphins could make big strides moving forward. Offensively Campbell promises a more aggressive approach but that doesn’t mean the offense will suddenly start scoring points.
Overall the Dolphins have a tough schedule ahead of them and the thoughts of 12-4 and 10-6 are all but out of the minds of fans. If Miami can finish 9-7 it would be nothing short of a miracle. Looking over the remaining games the Dolphins have some opportunities ahead for notches in the win column and it starts this week. This is all predicated on Campbell getting this team prepared mentally and physically to win football games. In other words, changing the culture.
The Dolphins will enter this game facing a football team that is playing tough. Their record doesn’t show it but the Titans, 1-3, have played some very good football through the first quarter of the season. Tennessee has beaten Tampa Bay and lost to the Browns but they came one point away from beating the Bills and two points away from beating the Colts. The Dolphins will have a tough game ahead but it’s one they should win.
After the Titans game the Dolphins should be looking at a 2-3 record as they come home to face the only team in the league they have never beaten. The Texans have a very tough defensive line that includes NFL MVP J.J. Watt. Campbell may be able to change the mentality of his football team but can he make the offensive line play better? He is going to need to. The Texans are as of today are 1-4 with losses to the Chiefs, Panthers, Falcons, and Colts. The Texans are a mess on offense like Miami but this is a game that even now the Dolphins should be able to win and if they can, Dan Campbell will do what no other Dolphins head coach has, beat the Texans.
No amount of resurrection will change what’s in store for Miami when they meet the Patriots for the first time this season. The Patriots are not only the best team in the AFC East right now, they are the best team in the NFL. Period. It’s hard to admit that but it’s absolutely the truth. Undefeated and by margins not even close. The closest games they have played thus far were the opening game against Pittsburgh when they won by seven and the Bills in week two when they won by eight. Both games despite the close score were never really that close. On Sunday the Patriots beat the Cowboys 30-6. The Dolphins will sometimes play the Patriots well but this is asking a lot. Miami should enter this weekend back at .500 after beating the Titans and Texans but they won’t advance to above .500 this week.
The Bills are 3-2 as of today (all records from here forward are as of today) and are kind of a Jekyll and Hyde team. They played very well against the Colts and Dolphins but won by only one point over the Titans. They have been beaten by the Giants and the Patriots. Of course no one really cares about that as much as they do the dismantling of the Dolphins at Sun-Life Stadium. The Dolphins traditionally don’t play well in Orchard Park, NY and I suspect this game will really give Miami fans an idea of what direction the Dolphins are heading in with Campbell. The Bills offensive and defensive lines are very good and it will be the job of the defensive front to keep the Bills running backs from having another field day. Karlos Williams rushed for 110 yards in the first meeting and LeSean McCoy barely played. He should be back for this game and it will be a tough one for the Dolphins.
Another one of those up and down teams. Miami will likely enter this week 3-5 after losing their last two and Philadelphia has the offense that can explode when they are playing well. The problem is they are not playing well enough to win. The Eagles have lost three games this season scoring 24 against Atlanta, 20 against the Redskins, and 10 against the Cowboys. They have beaten the Jets 24-17 and the Saints 39-17. This is going to be another tough game for the Dolphins but it’s one that I still believe the team can win if they can stop the Eagles offense from getting into a rhythm. Miami’s defense needs to wake up for sure and if you buy what Campbell is selling then you have to believe they can go into Philadelphia and win.
The Cowboys are an empty team right now without quarterback Tony Romo. There is a question as to when Romo will be back from his shoulder injury. Seven weeks was the early prognosis and that would put him on schedule to play this week. Personally I think he misses one more weekend. The Cowboys are not a good football team without Romo but the Dolphins have lost to Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brando Weeden isn’t likely to be the starter as the team seems intent on using Matt Cassel as the quarterback. Still if Romo isn’t playing I think the Dolphins can take this one.
New York Jets
The Dolphins will travel to New York where they have beaten the Jets the last three seasons. I don’t expect a repeat performance like we saw the first time the two teams played. This is a game that can get Miami back to over .500 if the games play out like I am predicting. The Jets are a mess and the only reason the Dolphins lost was because they are a bigger mess. Dan Campbell knows Todd Bowles as he was an intern coach when Bowles took over the Dolphins after Tony Sparano was fired. It won’t make that much of a difference as Campbell doesn’t know him that well. Still I think the Dolphins want to make a statement with this game proving that London was a matter of not being prepared.
The Ravens are not playing very good football right now and are coming off a loss today to the Cleveland Browns. Their defense isn’t what it has been the last few years and the Ravens will likely miss the playoffs this season and likely not be in the hunt. This could be a crucial game for the Dolphins, not that any of them are not anymore. Beating the Ravens would send a clear message that the Dolphins are ready to get their names back into the playoff picture but I don’t think the team can pull this one out. Too many questions still surround the team.
New York Giants
The Giants are the best team in the NFC West and they will likely only get better as the season continues. The Giants are playing sound football and the Dolphins are going to have a hard time covering Odell Beckham, Jr. and stopping the Giants rushing attack. The key here will be the Dolphins passing game. The Giants are very good against the run and the Dolphins are not very good at running the ball. Miami will have to rely on their passing game to win this one but as we saw on Monday night against the 49’ers, they can be beat. New York won in the final seconds of the game. Miami needs to have that shot as well.
Last season the Dolphins beat the Chargers 37-0 and don’t think for one minute they don’t remember that. Miami will make the long trip across the country and face a Charger team that can put up a lot of points but also a team that can lose ugly. San Diego I suspect is going to improve as the season moves along and they will get some of their key players back from injury by the time this game rolls around. Miami could be, as I have predicted thus far, 6-7 and I think they return home 6-8.
The Colts could be entering this game with an interim head coach as well. Chuck Pagano’s team is playing very poorly and Andrew Luck has looked horrible through the first part of the season. In fact as he has missed the last two games the Colts have looked better with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback. Barring injury Luck will be starting and the Colts struggles are much like the Dolphins. Miami has a very good chance of winning this game and I suspect they will moving themselves to 7-8 on the season.
Unfortunately the Dolphins will face the New England Patriots to close out the season and this will mean a 7-9 finish. The Dolphins are not close to being in the same league as the Patriots and it’s highly unrealistic to believe that will change in the next 12 weeks.
It’s a wrap
Miami I believe is going to improve but that improvement is not going to be enough to keep Dan Campbell as the head coach in 2016. Miami simply has too many holes on their offensive line and on defense and even the smallest injuries will be magnified by the teams lack of quality depth. While I predicted wins against the Eagles and Cowboys, I do so with the hopes and expectations that Miami will come out and play up to the level of their competition. I think Campbell will get the team ready to play and that talent will be allowed to show through. That being said, 7-9 is really a best case scenario for this team and that’s more or less what I was going for. It’s more realistic to think that Miami will finish the season 5-11 or 6-10. If the team comes out flat against the Titans this coming weekend and Houston the week after, and lose, that record will obviously change considerably and getting to four wins will be a tough challenge.
I like Dan Campbell and I think he will get this teams mentality changed but too many issues are still on the team. Lack of depth at corner is a big problem. Lack of talent at linebacker and offensive line is a big problem. His arrival doesn’t change that at all so unless he can elevate the game play of the teams mediocre depth, Campbell, the Dolphins, and their fans will be in for a long season.