The 'eye' of a storm is defined as an area of mostly calm weather, up to forty miles or so, in diameter, at or near the center of a cyclonic tropical storm. Centuries ago, before the advent of Doppler radar and other modern early warning signals, mariners and others who chose to wrest their livelihoods from the sea, had to rely on more primitive methods of determining whether it was safe to be on the ocean. Old adages such as, 'Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning' still hold true in some parts of the world, even today.
The Miami Dolphins, having played three of their first four games away from newly refurbished Hard Rock Stadium, this week begin a four-week stretch of home games that, including the bye week, will keep them in South Florida for more than a month. Not until they play at San Diego, on November 13th, will they have to leave the greater Miami area. They'll face the Tennessee Titans this week, followed by the Steelers, Bills, and Jets. They are likely to be favored against just two of those teams, and accordingly, we look for them to go 2-2 during this home stand.
Beginning this week, head coach Adam Gase and his staff will surely be working assiduously to improve the Dolphins' 26th ranked offense and 28th ranked defense. Thus far this season, Miami has shown an irksome tendency to have their defense gashed in alternate ways each successive week; New England riddled them through the air in week two, while Cleveland tore holes through the middle of the Dolphin defense with their ground game in week three. Last week, we saw Cincinnati quarterback put on a veritable air show in prime time, throwing the ball all over the field, to A.J. Green and others, as the Bengals blew out the Dolphins on national television. With the Titans and 6'3", 250 lb rookie running back Derrick Henry - a player Miami could have used, coming to town this weekend, look for Tennessee to pound the Dolphins with their rushing attack early and often in this game.
To be sure, there are still some positives for Miami; other than a few rookie mistakes, first round offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil has looked like a seasoned vet in the early going, and despite his rough outing last week, we've been encouraged by what we've seen thus far from second round CB Xavien Howard, who at this juncture, looks light years better than any corner the Dolphins have drafted the past few years. Both of these young men, in our estimation, will eventually be big time players. Gase, for his part, has also been impressive for a first-time head coach during the first month of the regular season. In pulling underperforming players out of the starting lineup, he has sent a message to the rest of the team that, unlike the previous regime, mental errors and lackadaisical play will not be tolerated by this staff.
Still, the Dolphins have their work cut out for them, facing a tough schedule the remainder of the season, particularly with the gaping holes that still remain in their starting lineup, on both sides of the ball. The good news is, that the recently reshuffled linebackers looked much better last week, with Donald Butler and Neville Hewitt replacing Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins, respectively. If the offense can sustain drives and put more points on the board in the season's remaining twelve games, Miami might have a chance to win as many as seven games this year, rather than just the four or five they've looked capable of the past couple of weeks. Better trim the sails and with them, the expectations, folks. Batten down the hatches and steer clear of the reef; the storm that is the 2016 NFL season promises plenty of wind, rain and towering waves yet to come. The Dolphins' modest little ship is ill-equipped to handle such meteorological malfeasance.