Miami Dolphins: 5 Reasons Why They're a Playoff Team in 2011
I've been doing some researching and thinking, and this year's Miami Dolphins is the epitome of boom or bust.
I could very easily think of 10 reasons why they won't sniff the playoffs, but could just as easily think of five reasons why they will make the playoffs.
Maybe I can have it both ways and write both articles, today I'll start with the reasons why they'll go to the playoffs, then tomorrow I'll list the negatives.
In a weird way I have a feeling that some of them might overlap, so before you nitpick both, I'm putting that out there.
So here's five reasons why the Miami Dolphins will be a playoff team in 2011.
#1. Dolphins Defense Will Be Amongst the Strongest in the NFL.
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Our biggest weakness on defense is at starting free safety, with a competition between incumbent starter Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones.
They're both very good players and I'd feel comfortable with either of them in that slot. Jones has a lot more upside, while Clemons is less likely to make a mistake.
If that's your problem on defense, your defense is very good.
I didn't take Atlanta's 17-0 outburst against the first team defense too seriously because of the fact that they didn't game-plan for Atlanta and also because 10 of those points came on a short field off of turnovers.
But the second team defense was on point the rest of the night, begging the question of how can you not feel comfortable with this defense?
Can a defense single-handedly lead a team to the playoffs? Yes.
Hopefully they won't have to.
#2. Improved Special Teams Play
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Other than the San Diego Chargers last season, no team was victimized more than the Dolphins by bad special teams play.
Now we're not talking about Carpenter, an accurate kicker who will hopefully be kicking more extra points, or Brandon Fields, who single-handedly won the Dolphins-Jets game last season with the most brilliant punting performance the NFL has seen since the days of Ray Guy.
I'm talking about the coverage. No more blocked punts, bad field goal snaps, or players taking it to the house. That's what it looks like.
Well the rules change helps the Dolphins too. With Carpenter's leg kicking from the 35 instead of the 30, he'll kick more touchbacks, much like the rest of the league.
Between Fields' punting, Carpenter's field goals, and potentially less kickoff returns (and the opposing offense having to start at the 20 due to said touchbacks), I could very easily see the Dolphins shaving off about six or seven points off per game.
#3. A More Wide Open Offense.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
How frustrating was the Dan Henning era on offense?
I wrote articles on Bleacher Report last season mocking his sometimes nonsensical answers to questions at press conferences. That was the most fun part of the Dolphins offense.
This year? It not only looks different, but feels different.
Brian Daboll has confidence in Henne, and has confidence in himself. He's willing to take risks when necessary, but knows when and where to do so and picks his spots.
This will mean that while we might see some wildcat, it won't be used in the momentum killing ways that Henning used it.
Daboll being offensive coordinator could very well be as invigorating to the offense as Mike Nolan's hiring was to the defense last season.
#4. Not an Easy Schedule, but a Winnable One.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Week 1: vs. New England (14-2, AFC East Champions, swept the Phins last year.)
Week 2: vs. Houston (5-0 vs. the Dolphins all time.)
Week 3: @ Cleveland (beat the Dolphins last season.)
Week 4: @ San Diego (beat Dolphins last time they played in 2009.)
Week 5: bye (jokesters starting making their "bye is favored by three")
Week 6: @ New York Jets (AFC finalist two straight years.)
Week 7: vs. Denver (Possibly the Dolphins fans cheering for Orton while Gators fans chant for Tebow?)
Week 8: @ New York Giants (Probably while they're facing questions about Coughlin's job. No its not a slight on them, they could start 5-1 and people will wonder if Coughlin is on the hot seat.)
Week 9: @ Kansas City (AFC West Champions)
Week 10: vs. Washington (John Beck's revenge?)
Week 11: vs. Buffalo (split, but the Bills could've swept us, and we could've swept them.)
Week 12: @ Dallas (No Leon Lett expected, Dallas is pretty good this season.)
Week 13: vs. Oakland (Beat them last year)
Week 14: vs. Philadelphia (Yikes.)
Week 15: @ Buffalo (brrr)
Week 16: @ New England (Brrr part two, plus its the Patriots.)
Week 17: vs. New York Jets.
Looks scary right?
Well let's take out the two New England games and Philadelphia. I just made the Dolphins 0-3.
Houston is winnable and we're due against them right? I say we are: 1-3.
And we've always played the Chargers well during the Rivers era. I'll say 1-4 but won't be surprised if they win.
Split against the Jets, 2-5.
Sweep Buffalo, 4-5.
Beat Oakland? Sure: 5-5.
Denver too? Yep: 6-5.
Washington is terrible: 7-5.
Cleveland is very ehh, but they can (and likely will) win that one: 8-5.
As for the Giants, something has to put Coughlin on that hot seat they love putting him on, seems like the right type of year for it too: 9-5.
Split against Dallas and Kansas City=10-6.
Now take this into account: the AFC isn't as deep as they've been in years past. I also think the Jets will finish 10-6 (I'm only saying optimistically that the Dolphins can.)
Can we see a winner take all game for the final playoff spot at Sun Life? Yes we can.
#5. They Aren't Panicking.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
This is the most important reason why I could see the Dolphins pull off a 10-6 and grab the AFC's last playoff spot.
The Sparano/Ireland era has made so many mistakes that many fans (including myself at times) think that they can run the team better than they can.
Yet I do wonder, if many of these fans are such great football minds, how come the highest level they've coached was the Pro level in Madden, whereas both Ireland and Sparano have a combined 28 years of experience in the NFL?
Trading for Kyle Orton is a panic move. I know the fans don't look at it that way, but that's because when we think we're being smart, we're really panicking.
Sort of like when Heat fans suggest trading LeBron for Dwight Howard after the NBA Finals.
The reason those deals don't get made is because it doesn't make sense. When you make a panic move, more panic ensues because you're issuing the white flag, which makes you more vulnerable.
Not the case with the Dolphins. They're not panicking, and neither are the players.
While I still think they should've traded for Greg Olsen or another tight end to add a needed dimension to the offense, that's not panicking, that's a smart move that takes confidence away from nobody and if anything adds confidence to Henne and the Dolphins coaching staff.
But other than that, I think I'll stick with the Dolphins' coaching staff on this. Orton would've cost too much and signaled panic.
More confidence in Henne (from Henne himself) will ensue.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
I've never been a big fan of these "conclusion" slides that just adds an extra page view or two, but, why not use one here? Besides I have to promote my website and twitter somewhere.
I'm sure I've missed some reasons to be optimistic, but those are five of the best I could think of. Unfortunately sometime this week, I'll go back to reality and give you some reasons why we're not going to the playoffs.
Then at the end of the season, I'll just delete the page that doesn't pan out, and then wind up looking like a genius.
But in all honesty, this is a good team, they have the talent there, lets see if they can cash it in.