The Worst Case Scenario
Every fanbase has a few skeptical fans with a "Sky is Falling" mentality. This scenario is for them:
Miami comes into the season with high expectations but fails to do what all of us fans are expecting them to do, which is get off to a hot start. Instead, Miami falls flat. The Dolphins lose early to either the Redskins or the Jaguars (or both) on the road, and the team and fan base is deflated by the time divisional games start in Week 3. Miami ends up facing New England in Week 7 with around a .500 record and ends up getting embarrassed by a pissed off Tom Brady, who arrogantly reminds Tannehill that the division is still his. The Dolphins play well enough to shock a few teams down the stretch, but ultimately we're left wondering "What could have been?" as the end of the year rolls around.
Miami seems to have had some tough breaks in the past, and that bad luck continues as the Dolphins lose a few key guys to injury this season, get a few tough bounces that don't go there way, end up with a negative turnover ratio and lose one or two heart-breakers in epic Miami Dolphins fashion (it still stings from last year, Aaron Rodgers). Tannehill fails to take the next step as one of the next elite quarterbacks, but most fans won't blame it on him because our OL will be as much of a liability as we had feared they could be.
Ultimately Miami will finish anywhere between 5 and 8 wins (it won't really matter at that point) and be one of the biggest disappointments of the conference. And unfortunately, It won't get better in the offseason. Our coaching staff will split, Tannehill's future will be in jeopardy and our aging productive veterans will look to jump ship. The Dolphins will continue with their mediocre results with a middle draft pick and the team will end up scrambling and looking to 're-build', yet again. Miami fans will try to get excited about our stadium unveil in 2016, but the next day Cameron Wake will sign a 3 year deal with the Patriots just to put the icing on the crap-flavored cake and show us why we can't have nice things. #SameOldDolphins will be trending on Twitter before the bye week, and carry the theme of mediocrity throughout the year that us fans are too awfully familiar with.
The Best Case Scenario
Well now that we got that out of the way for all the Negative Nancy's out there (but made the 99% of the rest us sick to our stomachs), let's talk about something a bit more uplifting, shall we?
You know all those so-called fantasy pundits we have been hearing who are predicting Ryan Tannehill to be the top quarterback in the division? The guys that are saying that Miami's defense will be so dominant that they will suffocating opposing offenses right off the bat? How about the ones that project Lamar Miller and Jarvis Landry to continue to be absolute studs and pick up where they left off from their successful 2014 campaign? Well, turns out they all right. Miami starts 6-0, and by the time they play New England in Week 7 they are the hottest team in football and ESPN and the rest of sports media is all but pushing New England off the throne in the AFC East.
The Dolphins are the team that nobody wants to play because of their lack of weaknesses; they will get out to a lead and their defense is able to pick up turnover after turnover as teams play from behind. Tannehill throws for about 4,300 in an effortless fashion. Despite dropping a few late games to some tough opponents, Miami gets off to it's hottest season in recent memory, by going 7-1 between the AFC South and NFC East divisions while also winning 4 to 5 divisional games. Miami finishes with 12 wins in the regular season and stays hot in the playoffs with January football back in South Florida. Tannehill, with rumors of talk of the top MVP candidate, leads the charge in a close contest in the AFC Championship game versus either Baltimore or Indianapolis. With a perfect performance, Miami fans could finally get a glimpse on what has been out of our grasp for over two decades, a Super Bowl appearance.
The Realistic Scenario
Wow! Well that last part had me feeling nice! While I think that may be perhaps be out of Miami's possibility (at least this year), that still doesn't mean the Dolphins can't take a big jump in 2015 and get one step closer to the Lombardi Trophy. And since I am a glass half-full kind of guy... these are my prediction for the 2015-16 Miami Dolphins:
Miami meets somewhere in the middle in 2015 by starting off hot, before cooling down around the middle of the year when they start to face some legitimate competition and playoff caliber opponents. The offensive line does hang tough, but they still are a liability at times and the offense hits times of the year where they seem to fail to get anything going. Miami has their fair share of players get banged up, but luckily avoids any significant disasters. Their main issue seems to be the improved AFC East, as they can't make up enough ground on the Patriots throughout the season. Despite finishing somewhat strong (which is NOT something we have seen in the Joe Philbin era), Miami loses to Week 17 against New England at home, which puts them at 10-6 but costs them the chance at the division title.
However, Miami ends up having the last laugh, because they shake off that tough loss to win their first wildcard game in 15 years, and they do it by upsetting New England on the road. Tannehill will cap off a spectacular season and get all the way to the Divisional Round before losing in a competitive game in Baltimore, who will end up going to the Super Bowl. While Miami fans are bummed to see the season come to an end, they have everybody talking about the changing of the guard in the division becoming more of a reality than a prayer. The 2016 season starts with a solid nucleus, a pro-bowl quarterback and an entire franchise that truly believes that the Dolphins have a legitimate shot to be Super Bowl 51 Champions.