NFL Preseason predictions: we all claim to hate reading and watching them, yet we all wind up doing just that, even if they make us angry.
Done in every sport as the season begins, experts will take a look at each team and predict their record for the upcoming season as well as where they will finish in relation to the playoffs.
In the NBA it's fairly easy since each conference typically has anywhere between two and four teams that you would say have a legitimate shot at the title. You could've said 10 minutes after Game 7 of the NBA Finals that the Heat and Spurs will meet again in the 2013-14 NBA Finals, and stick to said prediction without anyone batting an eyelash (save of course for Chicago Bulls fans who think that Derrick Rose coming back will be the be-all, end-all of the Heat. Beat Indiana first and maybe we'll talk).
But in the NFL, it's much harder because it's not just any given Sunday in play, it's any given season. If any fanbase knows that, it's the Miami Dolphins' fanbase that saw them go 1-15 in 2007, followed by an 11-5 2008 campaign led by Chad Pennington after he was replaced in New York by Brett Favre. A certain injury to a certain rival quarterback didn't hurt their chances, either.
After that season you would think that the press would end the preseason prognostications, however the opposite has happened, and everyone with a platform provides their own predictions without fail.
I've even done it myself and will provide my season predictions on my Dolphins Central Radio podcast. But today prepare to be angry at other people as we will look at what the experts seem to think of how the Miami Dolphins might do.
Bleacher Report's Chris Kouffman gave us a detailed game-by-game preview of the Miami Dolphins season that not only predicted each game on the schedule, but also showed us how each aspect of the game could be either a strength or weakness for the Dolphins.
It was my favorite season preview to read, due to how thorough it was and how it was based in reason and logic—even if I didn't agree with it 100 percent.
Kouffman looks at each game based off of how each team matches up against the Dolphins and concludes that Miami will go 8-8 based off of a tough schedule to start the season (he has them going 2-3 to start the season) followed by inconsistent play that includes a loss to the Bills in Buffalo as well as losses to the Carolina Panthers at home and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road.
Despite that, he has the Dolphins beating the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road: I could see the Dolphins going 8-8, however they're much more likely to win a road game in Tampa (which could see at least 30 percent of the stadium occupied by Dolphins fans), or a home game against Carolina, than they would be to win a game in Pittsburgh in December.
Overall it was the best of the season predictions I've read this season simply because you could tell that Kouffman spent his time studying this team and didn't base it off of watching one practice or one game.
Be prepared to see plenty of season predictions seemingly based off of one practice or one game.
Before we get to 2013, let's look at what Sports Illustrated's Peter King said about the Miami Dolphins last season when he predicted the Dolphins to go 4-12.
Now that you saw his video, you will notice that he was right about the receivers and the defensive backfield, and he was right about it being a rebuilding year.
Where he was wrong was the record, as the Dolphins didn't finish 4-12, they finished 7-9.
King says that this year's Dolphins team will go 6-10, not only behind the New England Patriots, but behind the Buffalo Bills.
King's explanation is not yet up online, however it is one I would certainly like to hear. Despite the additions made on the team, why would they win one less game? Their early schedule is tough but it's manageable.
For some publications, like The Sun-Sentinel, I will post what each staff member predicted along with their comments.
Dave Hyde (9-7): The defense should be a beast, Ryan Tannehill will take a nice step forward and the AFC East has two teams in quarterback transition. But this season needs a lot of players with unproven records to come through to pick it any higher than nine wins.
Omar Kelly (9-7): The Dolphins have undergone a massive roster makeover, which should improve the franchise long term. However, there’s no guarantee it will drastically add to the team’s win total. This season will come down to two things: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s development, and the team’s turnover ratio, which needs to be on the positive side.
Chris Perkins (8-8): The loss of Dustin Keller will have huge ramifications. It's potentially the team's most costly injury since QB Chad Pennington. Unfortunately for Dolphins fans the story of the season is the same as last year - the defense is ready, the offense isn't.
By the way, I should mention how ironic it is that the writer who's known for criticizing Ryan Tannehill the most seems to have enough faith in him to say the Dolphins will finish 9-7 while saying that his development will be important for a winning season whereas his colleague who doesn't get any gruff from readers doesn't seem to think Tannehill is ready yet.
Besides that, this seems like the norm for Dolphins predictions: anywhere between 9-7 and 8-8. It's what people who seem to watch the team every day seem to think they are capable of doing.
We will get back to South Florida's Dolphins' reporters later, as we go national next to see what the NFL Network believes.
No records here save for one prognosticator, just predictions as to playoff spots and who will win the division.
Let's start things off by saying that no one at NFL.com believes that the Miami Dolphins will win the AFC East.
Here's a look at what they said.
Brooks: The Dolphins' lavish offseason shopping spree ultimately won't help Miami overtake New England in the AFC East, but it will get the team back to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Rapoport: All the money they spent in the offseason isn't what finally brings them to the playoffs again; it's the maturity of Ryan Tannehill.
Overall, it looks like Tannehill is the main reason why they choose Miami to go to the postseason. Good sign for the second-year player.
ESPN has a writer covering each team this season, and for the Dolphins, they get James Walker, who last season was the AFC East blogger.
Walker is known for at times not exactly portraying the Dolphins in the most positive light, at least based off of the comments I see on his posts.
However his explanation was one that you will hear time and time again about the Dolphins.
I predict Miami will finish 8-8 this season. The Dolphins will be better. But a brutal schedule -- particularly early in the season -- will make it tough for Miami to gather enough momentum to get over the hump.
Miami’s first five games are at Cleveland, at Indianapolis, versus Atlanta, at New Orleans and versus Baltimore. It could be an uphill climb if the Dolphins start the year 1-4 or 2-3.
What worries me most about Miami is its lack of depth in certain areas. One significant injury to a cornerback, linebacker or offensive lineman would be tough to overcome. And rest assured, injuries will happen.
The Dolphins are a team on the rise. But it may take another year -- and an easier schedule -- to put it all together.
Miami does lack depth where he says they do, so they will have to be fortunate with injuries in order to have a successful season.
Walker is also right about this: Miami is a team on the rise. They are a young and hungry team with a pretty bright future. Sad as it may be to admit, they might need another year to put it all together.
But those are a lot of "mays" and "mights" to throw around, which is what these predictions are all about anyways.
Google Miami Dolphins and 7-9.
Actually don't, you know the connotation of it considering that since their AFC East championship in 2008 they have gone 7-9 three times in four seasons (with the other season seeing them go 6-10). It's become a joke amongst Dolphins fans to say "look at that, another 7-9 season ha-ha-ha."
As any Dolphins fans will tell you, you don't want to go 7-9. That's a record that means stagnation. Going 8-8 could mean you're either on the way up or down but it at least means something, and in the right conference and the right year it means a playoff berth.
Going 5-11 or worse means the chance to take an impact player in the draft at a position of need, and if you finish with that record, you REALLY need that player.
Of course 9-7 or above will usually mean playoffs.
But 7-9? It's the meh-est record one could have in the NFL, the equivalent of being the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference of the NBA playoffs. It means you could beat a good team, maybe, but you probably lost to enough stinky teams to show you're not worthy.
Good way to describe the 2012 Dolphins, who would beat a good team in the Seattle Seahawks, but still managed to lose to dregs like the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and New York Jets.
The hope is that this team is a changed team. Most people believe it is in one way or another.
CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan isn't most people, he picks the Dolphins to go 7-9, and here's his explanation.
Offseason moves created lots of hype, but it feels like this team is a bit overvalued right now. Ryan Tannehill has to significantly improve his touchdown-pass production if Miami is to reach the playoffs this season. Playoff teams in 2012 averaged 27 TD passes. Tannehill had 13. Lamar Miller hasn't convinced me that he can replace Reggie Bush, and it doesn't appear that Jonathan Martin is up to the standard set by Jake Long at left tackle. The defense will be solid but the non-division schedule is tough (Colts, Falcons, Saints and Ravens during the first five weeks).
Has Kirwan read some of the other national media predictions? I don't see this team being overvalued one bit but that's just me.
When he predicted every single game of the NFL season, he came to the conclusion that the Dolphins were a 5-11 team.
Now I must give him props for completing such a pointless and time-consuming task, especially since I did the same thing to come up with my predictions as well (which will be revealed on my podcast on September 7th), however what's odd is not only the fact that Prisco has the Dolphins starting off the season at 0-5, but also that each of those losses except for one is by less than a touchdown.
In other words, he's practically saying that the Dolphins will repeat their 2011 season but with one less win.
Honestly, I'll take 5-11 over 7-9 if those are my only two options. At 5-11 Miami has a top-10 pick in a draft that is not only deep at positions of need for Miami (offensive tackle, guard, linebacker, cornerback), but also deep enough at quarterback that a 5-11 season could turn any pick in the top 10 into an asset that could lead to more picks (unless Tannehill is extremely terrible this season, which I don't see happening regardless of record).
On top of that, 5-11 also means no more Jeff Ireland, whereas 7-9 could prompt him to stay, sadly.
We already looked at The Sun-Sentinel and NFL.com, now here's a look at The Palm Beach Post's predictions for the season, along with their explanations for their predictions.
Beat writer Hal Habib: 10-6
They’re definitely better. But better than the Ravens, Bengals or Steelers? If the Dolphins can’t finish ahead of two of those three, forget the playoffs.
The Texans or Colts will claim one AFC wild card. That leaves the Dolphins in the mix for the other provided they don’t leapfrog the Patriots for the East, which isn’t a nutty notion.
Ryan Tannehill will be fine and I like Miami’s upgrades at receiver, linebacker and defensive back. Love the picks of CB Will Davis and K Caleb Sturgis. The offensive line is the question, and outstanding teams with questionable OLs are rare.
Columnist Dave George: 9-7
Miami looks a little better and the rest of the AFC East looks a little worse, which means there ought to be a shot at playoff contention by accident alone. With such inexperience at quarterback and running back, however, it’s tough to get completely behind this team until the offense starts coming around.
If Mike Wallace is really going to make a difference for Ryan Tannehill, we’ll know it by the bye week. A string of games with Atlanta, New Orleans and Baltimore in Weeks 3-5 are the reason. Stand up to those teams and coach Joe Philbin may be off and running in his second season.
Miami could split with New England and Buffalo and sweep the Jets to earn a divisional base of four victories. After that it’s a simple matter of playing .500 against the rest of the schedule and it’s a winning record for the first time in five years. That, of course, is borderline production for a wild-card spot.
Beat writer Brian Biggane: 9-7
The Dolphins have come a long way from their rough run through “Hard Knocks” last summer. While they were never close to being a playoff contender, putting up a 7-9 record with a new coach, two new coordinators and a rookie quarterback was a step in the right direction.
The next step is to contend for the playoffs. A weapon that was missing last year — the deep threat Mike Wallace provides — is there now. The offensive line will likely be a work in progress all season, but Jim Turner is an excellent coach and it won’t be an overwhelming problem.
With the defense looking improved at cornerback and linebacker, it all comes down to Ryan Tannehill. If he’s really good, the sky is the limit, but with his relative lack of experience, expect another year of gradual improvement.
Columnist Greg Stoda: 8-8
The Dolphins made a whole bunch of fancy offseason moves in seeking improvement in several areas — pick a unit — but nothing will be as important to the team’s development than progress made by Ryan Tannehill.
Nothing. And it’s not even close.
Tannehill was serviceable as a rookie starter last season, and the value of that experience will be determined by how well he handles things this season. It shouldn’t take long to find out with the first five games being at Cleveland, at Indianapolis, Atlanta, at New Orleans and Baltimore. That looks like a load of trouble to me.
Miami has emerged as something of a trendy pick as a possible playoff qualifier, but there are lots of questions — start with the offensive line, yet again — to answer.
Beat writer Andrew Abramson: 7-9
After almost constant frustration for more than a decade, the last thing Dolphins fans want to hear is that the team is a year away from competing. But even after handing out more than $100 million in guaranteed contracts this offseason, don’t expect Miami to really reap the benefits until 2014.
The Dolphins might improve in some statistical categories, but with a lot of new parts to blend in and a brutal early-season schedule, expect Miami to finish 7-9, just as it did last year.
I originally had the Dolphins at 8-8, but that was with tight end Dustin Keller making the difference in at least one close game.
Miami will look a lot better late in the season and make the playoffs next year.
Andrew Abramson (who replaced Ben Vollin) says it best when he explains that Dolphins fans don't want to hear about this team being "one year away."
It seems that the majority of The Palm Beach Post staff doesn't feel that way, but Abramson and columnist Greg Stodta do feel that they are a year a way from contending.
For both, the reason appears to lay in Ryan Tannehill's development. Overall, the prevailing theme from the writers who cover the Dolphins every day is that as Tannehill goes, so goes the Dolphins.
The Miami Herald ran their annual big Football preview section on Friday morning.
While I did see them predict that my high school alma mater Christopher Columbus High School would win their district (something which they always seem to do), what they didn't have were any real NFL predictions.
Instead, we had Greg Cote, who didn't even bother to predict the Dolphins' record, but only say this while ranking them 12th in his Power Rankings:
Yes, I do have the Dolphins just outside of my top 10. Yes, this does mean I think they’ll make the playoffs. No, I have not been drinking. I’d admit this optimism relies on a lot going right offensively, such as Ryan Tannehill’s continued improvement, Lamar Miller’s emergence and Mike Wallace proving worth the money. As much as anything, it relies on Jonathan Martin being at least OK at left tackle. When I look at this team, though, I see a solid defense first and enough to like on offense. Left tackle is a concern, yes. But plenty of teams have plenty more worries. It all adds up to Miami being seriously in the hunt for its first playoff spot since 2008 — and first playoff win since 2000.
Cote is predicting a good season and doing the whole season predictions thing right.
The fact is, predicting records prior to the NFL season is a practice in mental gymnastics and nothing more. More often than not, you're going to be wrong, sometimes you're going to be very wrong.
Sometimes you will be like me in 2010 when I first started at Bleacher Report and predicted the Dolphins would go to the Super Bowl. Even though I was so very wrong about Chad Henne and the Miami Dolphins, I was so right about who would win the Super Bowl (I predicted the Packers would win it that year, and they did just that).
Cote did the right thing and said the Dolphins would be in the playoffs, but was vague in doing so.
Maybe I won't have a prediction this year after all, and instead just be vague about what I think.
Thomas Galicia is the host of Dolphins Central Radio, where on September 7th he will reveal his prediction on our live season preview show.