What a strange offseason. Has Jeff Ireland’s wheeling and dealing been much ado about nothing? Have improvements we’ve made been negated by downgrades at other positions. It’s more likely than not that a big, fat juicy pink slip awaits poor Jeff, should we not improve significantly on last year’s 7-9 record.
As we approach Thursday night’s season kickoff, let’s take a gander at how our schedule shapes up, and how we think our beloved SoFlo Sea Mammals will fare this season.
WEEK 1. Sea Mammals @ Browns
I’m going to say our run defense bottles up T-Rich pretty well Sunday afternoon, and the absence of Josh Gordon leaves the Browns with a hand tied behind their backs in the passing game. It ain’t pretty on offense, but Lamar Miller busts a few big ones, and Mike Wallace scores his first TD as a Dolphin as we emerge with a win. DOLPHINS, 20, 14.
WEEK 2. Sea Mammals @ Colts
We’re still resentful that the Colts lost Peyton and happened to suck just enough to replace him with the second coming of, well, Peyton Manning. I think the Colts will move the ball. Ahmad Bradshaw was a sneaky addition to that offense. Heyward Bey could find a nice role as well. They won’t go hog wild, but Indy will do enough. Our offense will still seem creaky at this point. COLTS 24, 21.
WEEK 3. Sea Mammals v. Falcons
Steven Jackson has the look of a kid in a candy store this season, with an All-Pro QB, two beastly wideouts and perhaps the best pass catching tight end of all time keeping defenses honest. We’ll slow Atlanta more than most teams do, but their offense is just too good to be shut down. This one feels like a heartbreaker, as Tannehill slings it well. Could be one of those matchups that really help our offense find itself, even if we come out on the losing end. FALCONS 31, 28.
WEEK 4. Sea Mammals @ Saints
This one feels like a replay of the week before. Tannehill piles up some gaudy numbers against Brees. But the Saints are going to be tough this year. Sean Payton has his boys balling, and we think they’ll be very tough at home. Teams that depend on the running game are going to get shut down by the Dolphin D. Unfortunately the Saints aren’t one of those teams. SAINTS 34-31.
WEEK 5. Sea Mammals v. Ravens
This game will be huge. In danger of slipping to 1-4, and facing the defending Super Bowl champions, the Fins will emerge with a win in a slugfest at home. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are bottled up all day. Flacco hits on a couple of big throws, but is frustrated for the most part. Ellerbe logs a couple of huge plays against his old team, and Tannehill manufactures a few touchdown drives against a D still looking to reestablish itself as elite. DOLPHINS 24, 20.
WEEK 7. Sea Mammals v. Bills
We like what the Bills are doing, and we like E.J. Manuel to give us fits for the next decade. However, we’re gonna give this a series split, and hand this one to the Dolphins at home. The Bills run D will stuff us for most of the day, but Tannehill’s confidence has grown, even in losses to Brees and Matt Ryan. Dr. T puts up 300+ as we edge our division foes. DOLPHINS 27-20.
WEEK 8. Sea Mammals @ Patriots
Sure, Hernandez is up the river and Welker’s in the Rockies. This team still has Brady, Gronk, thunder and lightning in Ridley and Vereen, and paid serious attention to their wideout position with Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Of course leave it to the Patsies to hit on undrafted surprise Kenbrell Thompkins. Just don’t think we’re leaving Foxboro with a win. PATRIOTS 31-20.
WEEK 9. v. Bengals
Ugh. This first half of the season schedule is brutal. The Bengals are undoubtedly a team on the rise. Gio Bernard is a beast. Dalton is sneaky good. Hell, with A.J. Green at wideout I might throw a few TDs under center in Cincy. The Bengals will be in 1st place, fighting to keep the Ravens off their tails. This will be a game that we let get away from us at the end, and will leave us 3-5 at the midway point. The good news? The scheduling gods are about to smile on us. BENGALS 24, 17.
WEEK 10 @ Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has a few good weapons on offense, but they haven’t put it all together yet. Doug Martin is their workhorse, but that happens to play in our favor. Vincent Jackson gives us trouble, but our D forces a few turnovers. Tampa brought in Revis to help remedy one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, but Tanny finds a few guys free on big gainers as we topple our in-state rivals. DOLPHINS 20-14.
WEEK 11 v. Chargers
Though not a “first-tier mess”, the San Diego Chargers are darned close. Ryan Matthews will probably be in street clothes at this point. We aren’t writing Rivers off yet, and he’ll have a decent day. However, we think the Chargers will wilt in the second half. Lamar Miller will have a big day. Tannehill puts up a nice day as Miami gets on a nice roll. DOLPHINS 31-17.
WEEK 12 v. Panthers
Cam Newton is dangerous, but shame on the Panthers for not being more serious about adding wideout talent. Steve Smith is no spring chicken. Jonathan Stewart may not even play this season, leaving 30-year old Deangelo Williams to shoulder much of the load. Carolina’s defense is legit, but we think their offense will betray them more often than not this year. Tanny tosses three scores, our D clinches it with an INT, and we’re suddenly 6-5. DOLPHINS 21-17.
WEEK 13 @ Jets
Speaking of first-tier messes, will Rex Ryan still be coaching Gang Green come week 13? Santonio Holmes is cleared to play, but is practically begging not to. Geno Smith doesn’t look ready yet. So many questions on this team, and we see a season sweep coming. Our D will have a field day, dominating from the first snap. DOLPHINS 30-10.
WEEK 14 @ Steelers
The Steelers are a tough team to nail down. This is the game that worries me. This is the one we’ll have to win, on the road, to show we’re “real” about making the playoffs. Very quietly the Steelers fielded an elite defense last season. It was their offense that was all over the place. This will be the “coming of age” game for Ryan Tannehill. This will be a slugfest, as we think the Steelers will be battling to stay relevant in the wild card race as well. How ’bout sweet revenge for Mike Wallace, as Tanny buys him an extra few seconds to get behind the Steeler secondary for the game winner? DOLPHINS 17-14.
WEEK 15 v. Patriots
Hate to even type it, but the Patriots will lock up the East yet again with a win in Miami. Tanny valiants battles against the surgical Brady, but Bill throws enough coaching wrinkles at us to make us slip up on a few big ones. The good news? We’re still 8-6 with the loss, and two extremely winnable games to close out the year. PATRIOTS 24-20.
WEEK 16 @ Bills
It will be 16 degrees. It will suck. It will be nearly impossible to throw the ball, aside from dueling screen passes to Spiller and Lamar Miller. We’re going to give our defense the nod over theirs. Buffalo is improving, but not quite there yet. We leave with a hard fought win, and board a return flight to South Florida at 9-6, looking at a “win and we’re in” situation. DOLPHINS 14-10.
WEEK 17 v. Jets
And look what juicy entree awaits us the next weekend? The Jests, in a battle with Oakland for the #1 pick in next year’s draft. At this point New York is staring at a coaching search and almost a complete rebuild. Half the guys will be trying to avoid injury before the season ends. Lamar Miller goes bonkers as the Jets phone it in in the trenches. DOLPHINS 30-10.
In this “tale of two seasons” (two schedules is more like it), the Dolphins go 10-6 and snag the last wild card. Tanny continues to improve. Our defense is one of the NFL’s best. It’s enough to grant Ireland another go-round in the big chair. Another tricky offseason awaits, but Jeff survives for another hand.
GO DOLPHINS, and feel free to follow us on Twitter @TheBottlenose