Miami Dolphins: Updated Game-by-Game Outlook for 2012
Despite those heartbreaking collapses, the Dolphins have kept themselves in position to make a playoff run—however slim their chances may be.
The Dolphins' next five opponents have a combined record of 10-14. Only one of those teams—the St. Louis Rams—has a record above .500, but as you'll see in Slide 1, they aren't a particularly intimidating matchup for the 'Phins.
Don't get your hopes up, though.
Miami is still largely untested and it cannot withstand injuries to more than a handful of players. Reggie Bush has slowed down from his ridiculous start and Ryan Tannehill is only generating a modest 237 passing yards per game.
But, considering how dominant the Dolphins' defense has been and how rapidly Tannehill has progressed, anything is possible.
Week 6: Vs. St. Louis Rams
The Dolphins return home from their Week 5 win to face the 3-2 St. Louis Rams.
St. Louis is coming off of a Thursday night win over the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, but it didn't escape unscathed. Sam Bradford's favorite target, Danny Amendola, suffered a broken collarbone that will sideline him for six to eight weeks. This is devastating news for an offense that failed to score a single touchdown in Weeks 3 and 4.
The Rams' offense has struggled through its first five games, ranking 30th in passing offense and 22nd in rushing offense.
However, it's the Rams' defense that has carried the team to its three victories. Defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long have combined for nine sacks and free agent signing Cortland Finnegan is having a sensational season.
Miami's defense shouldn't have any problems shutting down St. Louis' struggling offense. And, even though the Rams' defense is budding, it's yielding 26 points-per-game to non-divisional foes.
The Dolphins should pick up their third victory of the season here.
Week 8: @ New York Jets
What a difference three weeks can make.
Since the Dolphins lost to the Jets in Week 3, both Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes went down with season-ending injuries (Revis suffered his in that Week 3 game) and the Jets are spiraling into chaos.
Mark Sanchez has a 69.6 quarterback rating (third worst in the NFL) and he's averaging just over 200 passing yards per game. Part of Sanchez's struggles are due to his poor supporting cast, but he hasn't done himself any favors by throwing multiple interceptions in two of his last three games.
New York's defense is allowing just 197 passing yards per game, but it's also allowing a league-worst 172.8 rushing yards per game.
Divisional games on the road are never easy, and despite the Jets' struggles, this should be another tightly contested matchup reminiscent of Week 3.
Week 9: @ Indianapolis Colts
The Colts—like the Dolphins—underwent a facelift this offseason, yet have played surprisingly well through the first five weeks of the season.
After Sunday's shocking win against the Green Bay Packers, the Colts sit in second place in the AFC South with a 2-2 record. Andrew Luck is encountering his share of growing pains, but he looks awfully impressive—leading Indy's passing game to a top 10 ranking.
However, aside from its passing game, Indy has been largely mediocre. It's averaging just 97.5 rushing yards per game (19th in the NFL) and its defense is yielding 27.5 points per game.
Considering how similar these teams are, we can expect a tightly contested tilt. The Colts will receive a boost from the Lucas Oil Stadium's rowdy crowd, but the Dolphins nearly escaped Arizona—another notably hostile environment—with a win. So, maybe the Colts' home field advantage won't be such a determining factor.
Week 10: Vs. Tennessee Titans
Bill Parcells famously said, "You are what your record says your are."
But is the Tennessee Titans' 1-4 record truly reflective of their talent?
However, it's hard to defend a team that's giving up a league-worst 36.2 points per game and scoring only 17.6.
Jake Locker and Kenny Britt may be back from their respective injuries by Week 10, but even then, the Dolphins' defense can contain Tennessee's sputtering offense. Running back Chris Johnson has only rushed for more than 24 yards in one game this season, so he won't intimidate the league's best run defense.
So long as the Dolphins can capitalize in the redzone—something they've struggled to do this season—then they should topple the Titans.
Week 11: @ Buffalo Bills
So much for all that hype.
Despite the additions of Mario Williams and first-round pick Stephen Gilmore, the Bills have stumbled out of the gate to a 2-3 start.
Things have gotten progressively worse through the first five weeks of the season, too. Wide receiver David Nelson landed on injured reserve, both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller suffered injuries, and Buffalo has been outscored 97-31 in the last two weeks alone.
For the Dolphins, one key to victory is containing the Bills' two-headed rushing monster. Both Jackson and Spiller have struggled since returning from their respective injuries, but by the time Week 11 rolls around, they should be closer to 100 percent health.
But, ultimately, divisional match-ups are always unpredictable—even more so in primetime. Even if the Dolphins have the edge, they'll have to withstand a deafening Buffalo crowd in potentially frigid temperatures.
This will be a huge test for Ryan Tannehill.
Week 12: Vs. Seattle Seahawks
It's hard to find a team more similar to the Dolphins than the Seattle Seahawks.
The 'Hawks are starting a rookie quarterback who's surrounded by a stellar running back and a subpar receiving corps. Seattle also has a dominant defense that ranks third against the run and fifth against the pass.
Both teams will come into this game on extended rest.
In Week 11, the Dolphins play on Thursday night and the Seahawks have a bye. The Seahawks couldn't ask for a more timely bye week considering they have to make the 3,000 mile trek from Seattle to Miami.
Regardless, this figures to be an ugly, low-scoring game between two teams that collectively averaged just 27 points per game.
Despite the extended rest factor, the Dolphins' home field advantage gives them a sizable edge. Last season, the Seahawks were 3-5 on the road and they're 1-2 away from Seattle so far this season.
Week 13: Vs. New England Patriots
Set aside an uncharacteristically awful Week 2 performance, the Patriots are up to their old tricks this season.
New England leads the NFL in points per game (33) and yards per game (439.4). Surprisingly, the Patriots' rushing attack is actually outperforming the passing game. Thanks to the contributions of second-year back Stevan Ridley, the Pats have the league's third-ranked rushing offense.
Miami's front seven won't be intimidated and it's certainly capable of shutting down New England's running game. But, can the Dolphins' thin secondary possibly contain Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd? And, how will this defense defend Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez?
The Dolphins can score some points on the Patriots' 22nd ranked defense, but it's very difficult to envision Ryan Tannehill and Brian Hartline keeping up with Tom Brady and his arsenal.
Week 14: @ San Francisco 49ers
Following a grueling Week 13 tilt with the Patriots, the Dolphins will make a cross-country voyage to face another NFL superpower: the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers are a freakishly physical team that plays an old-fashioned, smashmouth brand of football.
They're averaging nearly 200 yards per game (best in the league), so there's really no reason to throw the ball. Alex Smith has only attempted 135 passes, which is the second lowest total amongst starting quarterbacks—and it's why San Fran's passing attack ranks 27th in the league.
San Francisco is equally, if not more impressive on the other side of the ball, where Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman and Justin Smith anchor the league's second-ranked defense. Opponents are averaging a measly 13.6 points per game and just 262.2 yards per game against the 49ers.
In other words, this is a nightmarish matchup for any team, let alone a young Miami Dolphins squad led by a rookie quarterback. This could be a very long day for Ryan Tannehill and the 'Phins as a whole.
Week 15: @ Jacksonville Jaguars
After back-to-back games versus Super Bowl contenders, the Dolphins return home to face the flailing Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jags are off to a 1-4 start due to an offense that can only be describe as inept...or horrendous. Through five weeks, Jacksonville ranks last in the NFL in points per game, yards per game and passing yards per game.
Things aren't looking much better on the defensive side of the ball, where the Jaguars rank 21st against the pass and 29th against the run. This defense isn't as bad as the numbers suggest, but it's impossible for it to perform well with virtually no production from Blaine Gabbert, Maurice Jones-Drew and the offense.
If the Dolphins can contain Jones-Drew and make Gabbert beat them, then they'll have a great shot at winning this one.
In fact, there's really no excuse for the 'Phins to lose this game.
Week 16: Vs. Buffalo Bills
The Dolphins cap off the 2012 season with back-to-back divisional match-ups starting with the Bills in Week 16.
At this juncture, both teams will either be eliminated from playoff contention or planted firmly on the bubble—though there's still plenty of time for Miami and/or Buffalo to emerge as solid contenders beforehand.
Realistically, though, this will most likely be a meaningless game for the Dolphins and Bills.
Neither team has looked particularly impressive through these first five weeks. However, looking at the Dolphins' upcoming schedule, it's feasible they enter this game with seven or eight wins. That's a best case scenario, though.
As much promise as the 'Phins have shown, they're still a very young and very thin team that could suffer a severe downgrade from just one or two injuries.
Week 17: @ New England Patriots
For the second time in three years, the Dolphins will face the Patriots in a regular season finale.
Barring some unforeseen, catastrophic collapse, New England will have secured the AFC East crown. The Pats could be playing for home field advantage or a higher seed in this game, but even if there's nothing at stake, they won't take it easy.
Bill Belichick is not one to rest his starters no matter how meaningless the game may be.
To make matters worse, the Dolphins may encounter sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall in this late December game.
All that being said, Miami did enter the second half with a 21-0 in last year's Week 16 matchup with New England. The Patriots then rallied for 27 unanswered points, but at least there's some glimmer of hope the Dolphins can play spoiler and snag a win to cap off the season.