The 10 teams competing with the Miami Dolphins for the post season

Noah Igbinoghene Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Igbinoghene Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Dolphins season starts in one week and the playoffs won’t begin until 18 weeks later but only 10 teams are realistically in the hunt.

With the NFL season about to start, the first game is Thursday night, and the playoffs remain a long way away but if you are looking over the weekly schedules, it is important to know who you should be rooting for to lose from week to week.

There are 16 teams in the AFC but six of those teams will have to have a huge turnaround to truly compete for the post season.

With four division winners and three Wild Card teams, three teams will join the six that will not make a big push. The Miami Dolphins have been one of those three teams in recent years. Can they take the next step and be one of the top 7? They have 17 games to get there.

The top candidates to win each division.

  • Buffalo – AFC East
  • Cincinnati – AFC North
  • Indianapolis – AFC South
  • Take a pick – AFC West

None of these teams except locks to win their divisions. The Colts simply don’t face a quality lineup in a division that features not one but two teams that fall into the group of six that won’t be real contenders but the Titans are in that division. That is a two-team race.

In the North, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh will try and unseat the Bengals. The Browns will struggle early because of the QB situation, Pittsburgh could start a rookie QB, and Baltimore has been more Jekyll than Hyde the last couple of seasons.

The East will depend on how improved the Dolphins are and whether or not they can beat the Bills while in the West, it could literally be anyone of the four.

These three teams don’t really have a legitimate shot at the postseason this year.

  • Jacksonville
  • Houston
  • New York Jets

From there we have to look at the next two teams that will be too inconsistent throughout the season to be considered realistic playoff contenders.

  • New England
  • Pittsburgh

The Steelers, again, are possibly starting a rookie and if they don’t, they will be starting Mitch Trubisky. There is too much change on offense to see them vie for the North and I think they take third in the division.

The Patriots are coached well but there are a lot of issues on both sides of the ball, especially on offense where the Patriots still don’t know who will call the plays every game. They have defensive-minded coach, Matt Patricia, calling the offense. Add offensive line woes and WR issues and it could be an ugly season for the Patriots.

The other 11 teams will be competing for a playoff spot, a Wild Card birth, and one of them will be a Super Bowl representing the AFC conference.

Miami is expected to compete for a Wild Card but they will remain lower on the list against the other ten teams. While they have a lot of talent, there are other things to consider, like a new offense, coaching staff, and uncertainty. Then there is Tua who could elevate the team on his shoulders or fail to support his team. This is a defining year for him.

Defensively, the Dolphins are in the arms of Josh Boyer. He will shine or he won’t. How he does will determine a lot of what happens defensively for Miami.

While we can see where the Dolphins realistically sit in all of this, the 10 teams aside from Miami can be broken down into two categories. The likely locks to make the postseason and the teams who could ruin those predictions.

The best bets

  • Buffalo
  • Kansas City
  • Cincinnati
  • Las Vegas

Teams who will need to win their division

  • Indianapolis
  • Tennessee
  • Cleveland
  • Baltimore

These teams may not get a shot at a WC spot due to their division structure. For example, the Titans and Colts are both good enough to get into the playoffs but neither is considered a team that will win 11 games which might be the floor for a WC team. The same can be said about Cleveland and Baltimore.

That leaves two teams not named the Miami Dolphins.

Those two teams come out of the AFC West.

  • Denver
  • San Diego

Both teams could challenge for a division and both teams could easily end the season with double-digit wins. The West is so hard to predict because all four could easily win the division and one of the four will not make the playoffs making each division game that much more important.

The question for Dolphins fans is simple. Can Miami get to 10 or 11 wins on the season? They may have to if they want to be a frontrunner for the postseason. For now, like it or not, reality tells us that they may end up being one of the teams looking up.