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ProFootball Focus Power Rankings: Miami Dolphins and their Opponents

Just a day before the first regular season game, Broncos vs. Ravens, ProFootball Focus releases their own power rankings with a few surprises

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ProFootball Focus is a bit higher on the Dolphins than SBNation
ProFootball Focus is a bit higher on the Dolphins than SBNation
Marc Serota

Another day, another set of power rankings. Yesterday, SBNation released their version and ranked the Dolphins 23rd. This time, the power rankings come from the folks over at ProFootball Focus (PFF). PFF asked their graders to submit their own rankings, so let's take a look at teams that should be of the most interest to us as Dolphins fans - the rankings of our opponents.

The highest ranked Dolphins opponent this year is the Atlanta Falcons, who come in at #5. That seems a bit high to me, especially given the Falcons' questions on defense and in the running game, but the Falcons are a top-10 team and will be one of our most difficult opponents this year.

Just like for the SBNation rankings, the first AFC East team appears in the rankings at sixth, with the New England Patriots. Of the ranking, ProFootball Focus writes:

Not a new story… Still Brady. Still Belichick. An improving defense and swapped-out parts on offense. It’s worked before.

As for my take - While the media's focus has been on their losses on offense, I do believe the Patriots will once again be a top-10 overall team based on Tom Brady elevating the play of the receivers they do have plus their improvements on defense.

Next, there is the Baltimore Ravens at #7. While I do think their defense will do fine, even after losing Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed, because of their solid draft and smart signings of players such as Elvis Dumervil, that ranking to me is still a little high based on their losses on offense. No Anquan Boldin (trade), no Dennis Pitta (likely missing most of the season due to hip injury), and behind veterans Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Brandon Stokley, they're relying on a young and unproven group of receivers. I think it'll be a little easier for opposing defenses to key-in on stopping the run, which will increase the burden on Joe Flacco, who has been an inconsistent regular season QB.

The Cincinnati Bengals are at #9, which to me is very fair. They look like they could be a well balanced team this year that could be average or above average in all phases of the game. Their defense will likely be top-10 if not top-5, and as for offense, Andy Dalton is still young enough to expect some improvement in year 3 of his career, and the same goes for AJ Green (which is scary). They've likely upgraded their tight end position with Tyler Eifert and added depth behind RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis by getting Giovanni Bernard.

To be blunt, the New Orleans Saints at #10 seems very high to me. I have no doubt their offense will be top-5 this year with the return of Sean Payton from suspension, continuity with Drew Brees at QB, and the re-signing of Robert Meachem after his release from the Chargers. That being said, their defense was awful last year and will likely be held back this year by a questionable decision to change schemes and several key injuries.

The Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers at #15 and #16 seem about right. They should be roughly average teams, each with strengths on one side of the ball but big questions on the other side of the ball. The Colts offense should be even better this year given their upgrades at offensive line and an additional year of experience for key guys including Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, TY Hilton, and of course, some guy named Andrew Luck. However, the questions lie on the defensive side of the ball, which was poor last year and will need to show significant improvement in just 1 year to cope with a more difficult schedule. Likewise, the Steelers defense is poised to have yet another good year, but on offense, they have to be worried about WR depth, O-line depth, and Ben Roethlisberger's ability to stay healthy.

As for the Miami Dolphins, they come in at 18th. PFF writes:

They collected weapons for Ryan Tannehill and gave Cameron Wake a running mate, now they’ve just got to gel before they go and chase down the Patriots. Good luck.

The Dolphins' range of votes went from #9 ("Wow!") to #25 ("What???"). However, the "average" of 18 suits me just fine. The #18 overall ranking says the Dolphins are a roughly average team that needs to beat out teams like the Colts and Steelers to earn an AFC wildcard spot this year, and that fits my view as well. I've written before that I think the Dolphins will finish this year ranked between 12 and 18 in the NFL, meaning they'll finish with anywhere from 8 to 10 wins.

At #22 is the Carolina Panthers, which strikes me as a bit low but not too low. Their defense, particularly their front-7, could be scary good this year. However, their secondary is full of question marks at both CB and S, and that's bad news in today's NFL. Likewise, on offense, I haven't been impressed by what Panthers' offensive coordinator Mike Shula (whose dad you probably know) has shown so far. A team with Cam Newton at QB, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart at RB, Greg Olsen at TE, and a still-productive Steve Smith at WR really shouldn't struggle to sustain drives, particularly with a solid offensive line, but they have so far.

At #23 is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is a team that's near impossible to predict. On paper, they have a great #1 WR, good O-line, great #1 RB, former ProBowl (but still young) QB, and playmakers at every level of their defense. That should translate to a guaranteed playoff team. In reality, they played poorly down the stretch last year, have injury questions (including antibiotic-resistant infections) about key guys on both offense and defense, and their young QB mysteriously went from one of the top 12 QBs in the NFL in the first 8 weeks of last year to one of the worst 12 QBs in the NFL the last 8 weeks of last season. Teams with pre-season injury problems and inconsistent QBs are difficult to gauge - I could see the Bucs finishing with anywhere between 5 and 11 wins this year.

The Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and San Diego Chargers are ranked #25, #26, and #27. All 3 teams have some good talent on both offense and defense, allowing them to potentially 'steal' a couple of games against better teams, but all 3 teams have new head coaches and too many questions in key areas to be viewed as credible playoff teams this year.

The New York Jets come in at #31. To me, that's a bit low for a team that likely finishes the year with a top-10 defense, but the fact is their offense could be quite horrible this year. Their biggest question marks are QB and receiver (WR and TE), so they decided to neglect WR and TE in the draft and hired a pass-happy offensive coordinator. I don't see that ending well this year. The good news for them is that they escape salary cap hell next year and could improve very quickly in 2014.

Before we get to your thoughts, here are a comparison of the rankings for the AFC East:

Team PFF Ranking SB Nation Ranking PFF Standard Deviation
New England Patriots 6 6 3.58
Miami Dolphins 18 23 4.65
Buffalo Bills 25 29 3.13
New York Jets 31 30 0.53

Like with the SB Nation Rankings, the standard deviation for the PFF rankings of the Dolphins is much higher than the rest of the AFC East teams, meaning that there wasn't really a consensus on how the Dolphins will do given that so much of the Dolphins' potential success this year depend on the rapid integration of new players and Tannehill's improvement, which are impossible to predict. Now, we're on to your turn. What do you think of these rankings? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure you head over to the full rankings to see where the rest of the NFL landed.