Predicting a new NFL season without the benefit of a free agency period, the draft still nine days away and no end in sight to the labor struggles that left the league in a lockout is kind of like throwing darts while being blindfolded.
Actually, I can throw darts while being blindfolded with much better accuracy.
Still, it's an entertaining, if not semi-worthwhile exercise to go through each week of a team's schedule and guess where a team might be at the end of the regular season.
The Miami Dolphins had a strange year in 2010 to say the least. The team went 7-9 which is pretty normal in the parity driven league, but the bizarre element was the 'Fins going 6-2 on the road and just 1-7 at home. Coach Tony Sparano loves mantras and motivational sayings and last year's was "Feed the Wolf." Ten bucks says this year's is "We Must Protect this House," if Under Armour will let them use it.
With that being said, here is one half-serious prediction as to how the Miami Dolphins 2011 campaign will turn out. With a little luck, it will reflect some of the frustration of last season offset by some humor and optimism for the season ahead.
Week 1: 9/12 New England, Monday Night Football
It's somewhat surprising that the Dolphins are getting ready to open the Monday Night Football season, but it's actually a smart move here. Miami was embarrassed by a Patriots team in last year's season finale despite the fact that New England rested several starters.
Sparano will plan and motivate his team for this game from now until kickoff. Opening at home after last year's disgraceful home mark will be a blessing in disguise, and I expect Miami to pull off a shocking upset with a creative, risk-taking game plan. Expect new addition at running back DeAngelo Williams to have a huge game in the 27-24 victory.
Week 2: 9/18 Houston
The Miami Dolphins have never beaten the Houston Texans. It's the only NFL team they haven't beaten. Until now. Riding a 15-catch, 222-yard receiving day from Brandon Marshall, who torches former Dolphin Jason Allen up and down the field, Miami wins 28-21. The Dolphins go to 2-0, just as they did in 2010. Fans suggest new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll should get an immediate raise and extension.
Week 3: 9/25 at Cleveland
Chad Henne follows up a 300 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions season performance against the Texans with 89 yards passing, no touchdowns and three interception effort against the Browns. Miami loses 17-8 as Peyton Hillis runs for 142 yards and two scores. Fans suggest new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll should be fired.
Week 4: 10/2 at San Diego
One of the most heart-breaking losses of the season for the Dolphins. Miami streaks out to an early 17-0 lead with one of the touchdowns being scored on a 98-yard fumble return by 355-pound Paul Soliai. The Samoan $12 million man, as Soliai is now known, unfortunately cannot return to the game due to exhaustion.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws three second-half touchdowns and running back Ryan Matthews runs for the game-winner with 10 seconds remaining on the clock to allow the Lightning Bolts to escape with a 27-23 victory.
Week 5: 10/9 Bye Week
Week 6: 10/17 at New York Jets - Monday Night Football
Miami quickly forgets about the missed opportunity in San Diego thanks to Rex Ryan's proclamation that his bye week is on Monday night. The Dolphins' Cameron Wake sacks Mark Sanchez three times, and rookie running back Kendall Hunter adds a 78-yard touchdown on a screen pass in the 31-13 rout. Hunter is later tripped along the sideline by a Jets' equipment intern. Ryan emphatically declares, "It's ridiculous to think I had that done on purpose."
Week 7: 10/23 Denver
Brandon Marshall relishes the chance to go against his former team but only catches one pass for six yards. The Dolphins still win 32-10 because Brian Hartline and new tight end Jordan Cameron catch touchdown passes and Dan Carpenter kicks six field goals. Denver quarterback Tim Tebow is declared the starter for the rest of the season after Kyle Orton is benched for his 20-of-54 pass performance.
Week 8: 10/30 at New York Giants
The Dolphins attend a Broadway showing of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on Saturday night. On Sunday, Eli Manning plays the part of Dr. Jekyll in being victimized by a pair of Jared Odrick sacks, losing a pair of fumbles and throwing three interceptions. Miami wins 23-16 and go to 5-2 on the season.
The Dolfans start using the "p" word and Jim Mora gets more airtime for his infamous rant. The following week, Manning throws for four touchdowns in the New York Giants 37-35 victory over the New England Patriots. Wide receiver David Tyree comes out of retirement and catches the game-winner with his face mask.
Week 9: 11/6 at Kansas City
Matt Cassel throws for 320 yards, Jamaal Charles rushes for 130 yards and two scores as Miami is routed 34-6. Bill Parcells is blamed for hiring Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano instead of son-in-law Scott Pioli to run the Dolphins.
Week 10: 11/13 Washington
The Redskins have never won in Miami. After this game, they still haven't, despite the much hyped return of quarterback John Beck. The former second-round pick of the 'Fins fumbles the center-quarterback exchange six times and loses the pigskin four times.
D'Angelo Williams and Hunter combine for 210 rushing yards and another 110 through the air. Miami wins 26-13 even with Chad Henne completing just four passes to a wide receiver. Webster's dictionary replaces "checkdown" with "Miami offense" in latest edition.
Week 11: 11/20 Buffalo
The Mammals are the talk of the NFL. Strike that. After going 7-3, they are virtually ignored by most national media because they virtually always are in the present day NFL. Plus the Miami Heat are playing the Lakers. Oh yes, the game. I almost forgot.
Miami defeats Buffalo 21-20. The Dolphins have a 21-3 lead going into the third quarter, but inexplicably forget that the forward pass is part of the game after Henne had thrown for 220 yards in the first half. They also become ultra-conservative by punting on second down not wanting to risk putting a 21-10 game on ice with six minutes remaining.
Week 12: 11/24 at Dallas, Thanksgiving Day
So let me get this straight, Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano used to be an assistant with Dallas, and Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett used to be an assistant with Miami. Will they go to the right locker room, especially in the palace known as "Jerry World"? The Dolphins are a turkey on this day. Tony Romo throws four touchdown passes, and the Cowboys cruise to a 34-20 victory.
Week 13: 12/4 Oakland
I don't know why, but Miami just plays better at Oakland. The Dolphins cruised in 2010 to a 33-17 victory for arguably their easiest win of the season. Miami wins again by the score of 33-17, which I am not sure has been done in NFL history, but it's worth investigating. Breaking news: Darius Heyward-Bey still can't play, and Al Davis has long since gone "hey-wire."
Week 14: 12/11 Philadelphia
OK, let's get a little serious here. This is one of the tougher games to predict, but I highly doubt that given Michael Vick's style of playing football that he is healthy for this game. Which means that the Dolphins defense feasts on backup Mike Kafka. Cameron Wake picks up his 11th sack and Koa Misi his eighth. Fins win 26-14.
Week 15: at Buffalo
This is where the trouble starts for Miami. Bills rookie linebacker Von Miller hits Chad Henne from the blindside and Miami is forced to insert rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. The red-haired wonder goes 12-of-15 for 125 yards and two scores, but isn't enough as the Dolphins lose 24-14.
Week 16: at New England
The Patriots, still smarting from their defeat to the Fins in Week 1, exact revenge with a 41-9 thumping and clinch the AFC East title. Henne returns to action but can't get the offense started and the running attack is stymied by the Patriots Vince Wilfork and rookie defensive end J.J. Wyatt. The Dolphins are 9-6.
Week 17: New York Jets
My guess is that this season finale between heated divisional rivals will have significant playoff implications for one if not both teams. Call it a stamp on Miami's home field revenge from 2010. Sean Smith finally puts his hands around not one but two interceptions to seal the 23-19 victory. Miami finishes the regular season at 10-6 and will travel back to Kansas City for a wild-card game. Rex Ryan and the Jets don't even get close to their annual Super Bowl prediction this time.
Miami finishes the season with a perfect 8-0 home record. Yes, you heard it here first and last. They go 2-6 on the road, and the local media wonders whether the Dolphins can handle the pressure of playing away from home. Yes, it's called being fickle.
Sneak Peak at the Playoffs
Call it a hunch with a bit of humor. Hope you enjoyed!