The Dolphins open the year against the juggernaut of the AFC East, but this is probably the best case scenario. The Patriots are so good because they are smarter than their opponent, and they study more than their opponent. However, with the Dolphins running a new offense, Bill Belichick won't be able to come up with a specialized blueprint to stop Miami. That is, until the second half of that game. Nonetheless, this is Miami's best chance to steal one against this Patriots squad and actually begin a win streak against the team that has dominated them for years.
Prediction: The Dolphins take advantage of the Patriots lack of knowledge about their new offense and pull out a victory for the fans in the home-opener.
The Dolphins visit the Buffalo Bills in September, which is another luck break in a schedule which had potential to be treacherous. The Dolphins avoid visiting Buffalo in bad conditions, like last year's embarrassing Week 16 blowout in Buffalo, but Miami still has to show up and beat this team which swept the season series against the Dolphins in 2013.
Prediction: Miami won't be pushed around in 2014 like they were last year by Buffalo and will end the Bills win streak over Miami.
The Chiefs are an explosive team that put up 44 points in a playoff loss against the Indianapolis Colts, which means they will be a hungry team. The Dolphins, as it stands now, don't have a guy who will be able to cover Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles out of the backfield, and I expect him to have a huge day. This game is Branden Albert's first game against his old team and he will likely play his heart out, but it likely won't be enough as he watches Charles run all over the field.
Prediction: Miami will not be able to contain Charles, one of the best RBs in the NFL, and it will cause them to lose the game.
This is probably one of the easier games on the schedule, so history tells us the Dolphins will make it harder than it needs to be. This game is in London, and this leaves Miami at an advantage as the Raiders have to fly 926 more miles than the Dolphins on the trip to London. The Raiders have bolstered a few areas through free agency, but most of the signings were older players and were even called "throwaways" by one of the signees, Maurice Jones-Drew.
Prediction: Oakland will be better than 2014, but I still see Miami pulling this one out for the London fans.
The NFL usually gives teams who travel to London a bye week the following week, and the Dolphins were no exception. Good time for Miami to rest, but the second half part of the season will be long and perilous.
Joe Philbin faces his old team for the first time since becoming the Dolphins head coach. Philbin will likely circle this game on the schedule, and he'll have an extra week to get his troops ready. The Packers are annually one of the best teams in the NFL, and if Philbin can't motivate his team to play hard in this game then he might not be fit to be a head coach.
Prediction: Miami will play hard and the game will go down to the fourth quarter, but, unless Rodgers is hurt, I see the Packers pulling this one out.
Another ideal schedule situation, the Dolphins visit the Windy City in mid-October. The Bears have one of the best (and biggest) duos of WRs in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, which will provide an interesting match-up for one of the best (and smallest) CB duos in Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan (if Finnegan regains his Pro Bowl form). The Dolphins will also likely struggle with Matt Forte, one of the best receiving RBs in the NFL
Prediction: Miami will make a few big plays off of a few Jay Cutler mistakes that changes the tide of the game and allows Miami to pull out the victory in Chicago.
The Jaguars have bolstered their defensive line with the signing of two former Seattle Seahawks and Super Bowl Champions in Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. Even so, the Jaguars are set to start Dolphin-castoff Chad Henne at QB in 2014. The Jaguars still don't have many weapons and lost their long-time workhorse RB Maurice Jones-Drew in free agency. The Dolphins need to take advantage of this game as it is probably the last game they'll be favored to win for at least a month.
Prediction: The Dolphins take advantage of the short road trip and weaker opponent and blow out the Jaguars.
The Dolphins face the Chargers for the second straight year. The Chargers have a top 10 QB in Phillip Rivers and a strong offensive line and running game. Miami will have to put up a lot of points to pull this one out.
Prediction: This game, like last season, will test the Dolphins, but I expect Miami to pull out the victory in dramatic fashion for the second straight year.
Louis Delmas and Reggie Bush face their former teams and get their chance at revenge. The Dolphins will face an extremely high-powered offense with weapons all over the field. The defense will be challenged in this contest to stop the likes of Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Joique Bell and Bush.
Prediction: The Lions' offensive firepower will be too much for the Dolphins to match and they will suffer the loss on the road.
Miami will finish the season series against the Bills in Sun Life Stadium in the Thursday night spotlight. The Dolphins will once again face the team which crushed their spirits and season last year, and will once again face the chance at redemption. The Bills annually kill the Dolphins with screen passes, ground and pound football and physical defense, so the Dolphins must be bullish in their approach to the game.
Prediction: Miami edges out a victory against the Bills, sweeping the series against the team that did the same to them in 2013.
The Dolphins travel to scenic Colorado to receive a smack down from the defending AFC Champions in what is probably the hardest game on the schedule. Miami, while expected to improve greatly on offense, will still not have the firepower to keep up with Manning and the Broncos. The Broncos defense will also be significantly better in 2014 with the additions of TJ Ward and DeMarcus Ware.
Prediction: Manning and the Broncos will put up too many points for the Dolphins to keep up, but Tannehill and company will keep it closer than many would expect.
The Dolphins second primetime game of the season comes in New York on Dec 1, the second consecutive year the Dolphins play the Jets in New York on Dec 1. This is one of the least favorable games on the schedule as it will be likely be cold and windy in the Meadowlands on this night. The Jets will be much improved whether Geno Smith or Michael Vick starts. The Jets' defense is solid, as usual under Rex Ryan, but with the additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson, the Jets will likely be able to put up points, which spells trouble for the other AFC East teams.
Prediction: The Dolphins lose a tough, low-scoring fourth quarter game.
The Ravens have beat the Dolphins four straight times since the Dolphins avoided the dreaded 0-16 season with an overtime with over Baltimore in 2007. At 7-5, this will be a pivotal game in the Dolphins season. It will be a step up and prove yourself game for the Dolphins (and Ryan Tannehill) in a step up and prove yourself year for the team (and Ryan Tannehill).
Prediction: Joe Flacco has had the Dolphins number, but the Dolphins should have beat the Ravens last year, and will beat them this year.
The Dolphins, now 8-5 and fresh off the momentum of beating the Ravens, will go up to New England in mid-December to face the Patriots. This is definitely one of the top two hardest games on the schedule, as the conditions will likely be very unfavorable against an already tough team. The Dolphins margin of error, which is already reduced because they're facing the Patriots, will be even slimmer due to the weather.
Prediction: The Dolphins simply cannot handle the combination of weather and a good opponent, so the Patriots will drop their division rival to 8-6 and cause them to cling to their playoff hopes.
The Dolphins return home to face the Vikings in a must-win game to keep their playoff chances alive. The Dolphins' number one issue will be stopping Adrian Peterson, who is an absolute freak. The Dolphins run defense deteriorated down the stretch last season, and if the Dolphins want to end their playoff drought that cannot happen again.
For the second straight season, the Dolphins will finish the season with the Jets trying to spoil their playoff chances. The Jets have a ferocious front seven and a lot more playmakers on offense this season. The Jets will not be a laughing stock in 2014, and Miami will need to play up to the situation and prove to the world that last season's choke job was a fluke. Jobs will depend on it.
Prediction: This matchup could very well be for the final wildcard slot, and, like 2008, the Dolphins win a miraculous game against the Jets to end their playoff drought.
So there you have it folks, I have the Dolphins going 10-6 next season and earning their first playoff berth since 2008.