Miami Dolphins: Analyzing Playoff Odds, Biggest Weaknesses and Rookies to Watch

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Miami Dolphins: Analyzing Playoff Odds, Biggest Weaknesses and Rookies to Watch
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The Miami Dolphins decided not to address the quarterback position in the 2011 NFL draft. Instead, they upgraded their offensive line, added a new running back and essentially gave the quarterback job to Chad Henne for one more season.

It is important to start here because the success of the Dolphins begins and ends with what Chad Henne can accomplish under center in 2011. The third-year pro is not only considered the second-best quarterback the Dolphins have, but also the second-best Chad they have, behind Chad Pennington. But, as if cursed for no good reason, Pennington is injured once again and will spend the season on television rather than the football field.

Defensively, the Dolphins weren't all that bad in 2010, and actually finished sixth in total yards surrendered at just over 300 yards per game. If they can put up numbers somewhere close to what they did last season, all the success of the team will rest on the offense.

 

Biggest Weaknesses: Scoring and Home-Field Advantage

The Dolphins won seven games last season, but six of them came on the road. Their performance at home was absolutely atrocious, and Henne threw twice the amount of interceptions at home as he did on the road.

But all that shows is that the Dolphins are, in fact, a run first offense. On the road, Henne threw only seven interceptions while his running game averaged 30 more yards per game that at home.

The problem, even on the road, was that the Dolphins simply couldn't score enough points even though they only allowed an average of 20.8 points per game.

If Miami is to succeed at all this season, they need to find a way to win football games at home, especially with teams like Denver, Washington, Buffalo and Oakland visiting this year. At the very least, they should win these four games at Sun Life Stadium.

 

Rookies to Watch: Mike Pouncey, Daniel Thomas and Edmond Gates

Pouncey obviously isn't filling up a stat sheet, but if Thomas is, you can bet that the new Miami Dolphins guard is a big reason why. At No. 15 in the draft the Dolphins had a lot of options, but they chose to add the former Florida Gator. His brother, Maurkice of the Steelers, was an All-Pro player as a rookie in 2010. If the Dolphins can get Mike anywhere close to that, they will be very, very happy.

Thomas (see above video) is a bigger running back with fantastic feet and even has experience running the Wildcat. He showed to be unstoppable at times during college and makes up for his lack of elite speed with good vision, quickness and strong legs. He'll likely be the feature back when Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams leave.

And finally, Edmond Gates deserves mention because he could become a sensational return man in his rookie year. He still has a lot of work to do as a receiver, but he has rare speed, even for the NFL.

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Playoff Odds: Wild Card Team at Best

The Dolphins have a fairly favorable home schedule with Denver, Washington, Buffalo and Oakland visiting them in 2011. These are games they should not lose, but they also have to play the Jets and Patriots twice and have Philadelphia and Houston also visiting.

Their road schedule is tough on top of the other AFC East teams, as they visit Cleveland (who is always tough at home), San Diego, New York Giants, Kansas City and Dallas.

The Dolphins need their first and second round picks to adapt early, Chad Henne to play far above his career numbers and the defense to continue playing top 10-caliber football, or they'll lose a lot of games this year.

Giving them four wins against the aforementioned "weaklings," and they might be able to get to 10 wins if they truly put it all together. A Wild Card spot is the best they can hope for, but realistically, this is still a seven-to-eight win team with the potential to completely bottom out under Henne.

You can follow  Wes O'Donnell on Twitter.

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