Miami Dolphins: Breaking Down the AFC and Playoff Expectations
The Miami Dolphins are a young team brimming with talent. While Jeff Ireland has been widely criticized for Miami's recent failures, the 2013 offseason has been nothing short of brilliant for the general manager and his franchise.
The Dolphins have added Pro Bowlers such as Mike Wallace, Brent Grimes and Tyson Clabo. Miami added arguably the fastest tight end they have ever had in Dustin Keller. The Dolphins also re-signed the steady Brian Hartline and already boast Mike Pouncey, Cameron Wake and Reshad Jones on their roster.
In additon, Miami drafted several players who can have an immediate impact such as Dion Jordan, Jamar Taylor, Dallas Thomas, Dion Sims and Caleb Sturgis.
The Dolphins also have a young quarterback that is full of promise in Ryan Tannehill who will determine Miami's fate in the upcoming season. Everything points up for this pocket phenom.
With the Miami Dolphins poised to make a strong playoff push in 2013, I will attempt to predict where the Dolphins will stand in the AFC based on their 2013 schedule and that of their key competitors.
Denver Broncos, 13-3
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The Denver Broncos may have lost Elvis Dumervil, but they added Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez, Terrance Knighton, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Shaun Phillips and Quentin Jammer, among others. Denver is the favorite to take the AFC title, according to NFL.com.
Week 1 vs Baltimore Ravens WIN
Week 2 @ New York Giants LOSS
Week 3 vs Oakland Raiders WIN
Week 4 vs Philadelphia Eagles WIN
Week 5 @ Dallas Cowboys WIN
Week 6 vs Jacksonville Jaguars WIN
Week 7 @ Indianapolis Colts WIN
Week 8 vs Washington Redskins WIN
Week 9 BYE
Week 10 @ San Diego Chargers WIN
Week 11 vs Kansas City Chiefs WIN
Week 12 @ New England Patriots WIN
Week 13 @ Kansas City Chiefs WIN
Week 14 vs Tennessee Titans WIN
Week 15 vs San Diego Chargers WIN
Week 16 @Houston Texans LOSS
Week 17 @ Oakland Raiders LOSS
The Broncos will likely see some late losses as they rest starters after dominating their division. For Peyton Manning, this is familiar territory.
Houston Texans, 12-4
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The Houston Texans signed Ed Reed while keeping their roster mostly intact. The Texans will once again be major players in the AFC title hunt, but they have a major question mark at quarterback.
Matt Schaub is surrounded by talent such as Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, but has shown a high level of inconsistency. Despite his 90.7 quarterback rating in 2012, Schaub had six games where he had a QB rating of 72.1 or less.
Week 1 @ San Diego Chargers WIN
Week 2 vs Tennessee Titans WIN
Week 3 @ Baltimore Ravens LOSS
Week 4 vs Seattle Seahawks LOSS
Week 5 @ San Francisco 49ers LOSS
Week 6 vs St. Louis Rams WIN
Week 7 @ Kansas City Chiefs WIN
Week 8 BYE
Week 9 vs Indianapolis Colts WIN
Week 10 @ Arizona Cardinals WIN
Week 11 vs Oakland Raiders WIN
Week 12 vs Jacksonville Jaguars WIN
Week 13 vs New England Patriots WIN
Week 14 @ Jacksonville Jaguars WIN
Week 15 @ Indianapolis Colts LOSS
Week 16 vs Denver Broncos WIN
Week 17 @ Tennessee Titans WIN
The Texans have a difficult stretch early on but have an easy schedule, overall. They have four divisional games against the Jaguars and Titans complemented with matchups against the Rams, Chiefs, Cardinals and Raiders.
New England Patriots, 12-4
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The New England Patriots have Tom Brady and that alone makes them a frontrunner for the AFC crown.
All is not well in Foxborough though as Wes Welker left to Denver, Rob Gronkowski has a battered body and Aaron Hernandez may be suspended for the upcoming season.
Ryan Wilson of CBSSports.com wrote that Gronkowski's recent back surgery went well but his colleague, Jason La Canfora added that Gronkowski will likely miss all of training camp. The star tight end also had lingering problems with his left forearm, which he broke last season.
According to Wilson, Hernandez may reportedly have had a part in the homicide of semi-professional football player, Odin Lloyd. Despite what Hernandez's lawyer may think, the ex-Gator's behavior in the days after the murder were not those of an innocent man, or, at least, of a person who was not involved. Who destroys the security system at their house and their cell phone just for fun?
Week 1 @ Buffalo Bills WIN
Week 2 vs New York Jets WIN
Week 3 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers WIN
Week 4 @ Atlanta Falcons LOSS
Week 5 @ Cincinnati Bengals WIN
Week 6 vs New Orleans LOSS
Week 7 @ New York Jets WIN
Week 8 vs Miami Dolphins WIN
Week 9 vs Pittsburgh Steelers WIN
Week 10 BYE
Week 11 @ Carolina Panthers WIN
Week 12 vs Denver Broncos LOSS
Week 13 @ Houston Texans LOSS
Week 14 vs Cleveland Browns WIN
Week 15 @ Miami Dolphins WIN
Week 16 @ Baltimore Ravens WIN
Week 17 vs Buffalo Bills WIN
For the aforementioned reasons, New England's offense will be less potent and Miami will not be too far behind in the division race.
Cincinnati Bengals, 9-7
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Like the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals did not add much to their team via free agency.
Unlike the Ravens and Steelers, however, the Bengals did not lose key players either.
Cincinnati has a stud receiver in A.J. Green and added more offensive firepower in Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard. Clark Judge of CBSSports.com believes Green will be "off charts" in 2013.
Week 1 @ Chicago Bears LOSS
Week 2 vs Pittsburgh Steelers WIN
Week 3 vs Green Bay Packers LOSS
Week 4 @ Cleveland Browns WIN
Week 5 vs New England Patriots LOSS
Week 6 @ Buffalo Bills WIN
Week 7 @ Detroit Lions WIN
Week 8 vs New York Jets WIN
Week 9 @ Miami Dolphins LOSS
Week 10 @ Baltimore Ravens LOSS
Week 11 vs Cleveland Browns WIN
Week 12 BYE
Week 13 @ San Diego Chargers LOSS
Week 14 vs Indianapolis Colts WIN
Week 15 @ Pittsburgh Steelers LOSS
Week 16 vs Minnesota Vikings WIN
Week 17 vs Baltimore Ravens WIN
The Cincinnati Bengals will win the AFC North and be the conference's fourth seed.
Miami Dolphins, 11-5
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The Miami Dolphins could have made the playoffs last year with some lucky breaks and some Dan Carpenter accuracy. After their 7-9 campaign, they exponentially improved the talent on their roster. A playoff run should be expected.
Week 1 @ Cleveland Browns WIN
Week 2 @ Indianapolis Colts WIN
Week 3 vs Atlanta Falcons LOSS
Week 4 @ New Orleans Saints LOSS
Week 5 vs Baltimore Ravens WIN
Week 6 BYE
Week 7 vs Buffalo Bills WIN
Week 8 @ New England Patriots LOSS
Week 9 vs Cincinnati Bengals WIN
Week 10 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers WIN
Week 11 vs San Diego Chargers WIN
Week 12 vs Carolina Panthers WIN
Week 13 @ New York Jets LOSS
Week 14 @ Pittsburgh Steelers WIN
Week 15 New England Patriots LOSS
Week 16 @ Buffalo Bills WIN
Week 17 vs New York Jets WIN
The Miami Dolphins will be the fifth seed in the AFC, but will be dangerous in the playoffs.
Indianapolis Colts, 9-7
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Like last year, the Indianapolis Colts do not have the talent on their roster to be a contender in the AFC and Marc Sessler of NFL.com believes the Colts are primed for a step back.
The Colts made the playoffs due to the outstanding play of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, and as long as he's their field general, Indianapolis will be in the hunt.
Week 1 vs Oakland Raiders WIN
Week 2 vs Miami Dolphins LOSS
Week 3 @ San Francisco 49ers LOSS
Week 4 @ Jacksonville Jaguars WIN
Week 5 vs Seattle Seahawks LOSS
Week 6 @ San Diego Chargers WIN
Week 7 vs Denver Broncos LOSS
Week 8 BYE
Week 9 @ Houston Texans LOSS
Week 10 vs St. Louis Rams WIN
Week 11 @ Tennessee Titans WIN
Week 12 @ Arizona Cardinals WIN
Week 13 vs Tennessee Titans WIN
Week 14 @ Cincinnati Bengals LOSS
Week 15 vs Houston Texans WIN
Week 16 @ Kansas City Chiefs LOSS
Week 17 vs Jacksonville Jaguars WIN
Once again, the Indianapolis Colts will sneak into the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens, 8-8
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The Baltimore Ravens are no juggernaut, barely winning their division against the Cincinnati Bengals, who had an equal 10-6 record in 2012.
The Super Bowl champions and quarterback Joe Flacco raised their games when it counted. Despite that, it is fair to say that the Ravens were not the best team in the AFC last year. With the losses of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and potentially Vonta Leach, the Ravens are a weaker team.
The additions of Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty are not enough to save Baltimore from a disappointing campaign.
Week 1 @ Denver Broncos LOSS
Week 2 vs Cleveland Browns WIN
Week 3 vs Houston Texans WIN
Week 4 @ Buffalo Bills WIN
Week 5 @ Miami Dolphins LOSS
Week 6 vs Green Bay Packers LOSS
Week 7 @ Pittsburgh Steelers LOSS
Week 8 BYE
Week 9 @ Cleveland Browns WIN
Week 10 vs Cincinnati Bengals WIN
Week 11 @ Chicago Bears LOSS
Week 12 vs New York Jets WIN
Week 13 vs Pittsburgh Steelers WIN
Week 14 vs Minnesota Vikings WIN
Week 15 @ Detroit Lions LOSS
Week 16 vs New England Patriots LOSS
Week 17 @ Cincinnati Bengals LOSS
A difficult road schedule, coupled with tough divisional games, will keep the Ravens from a winning record.
Pittsburgh Steelers, 8-8
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The Pittsburgh Steelers lost Mike Wallace, James Harrison and Casey Hampton while only bringing in impact players like Jarvis Jones via the draft. While the Steelers cannot be blamed for choosing to become younger, they are clearly building for the future, but now is not their time.
Week 1 vs Tennessee Titans WIN
Week 2 @ Cincinnati Bengals LOSS
Week 3 vs Chicago Bears LOSS
Week 4 @ Minnesota Vikings LOSS
Week 5 BYE
Week 6 @ New York Jets WIN
Week 7 vs Baltimore Ravens WIN
Week 8 @ Oakland Raiders WIN
Week 9 @ New England Patriots LOSS
Week 10 vs Buffalo Bills WIN
Week 11 vs Detroit Lions LOSS
Week 12 @ Cleveland Browns WIN
Week 13 @ Baltimore Ravens LOSS
Week 14 vs Miami Dolphins LOSS
Week 15 vs Cincinnati Bengals WIN
Week 16 @ Green Bay Packers LOSS
Week 17 vs Cleveland Browns WIN
The Pittsburgh Steelers' offense was lethargic last year and they lost their most explosive offensive weapon in Mike Wallace. Can Le'Veon Bell and Markus Wheaton be Pittsburgh's saviors? Don't hold your breath, Steeler fans.