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Are Playoffs a requirement for the Dolphins in 2016?

Miami Dolphins v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Think back to June. Or July. Or August. What did you think of the Miami Dolphins back then? Most fans were expecting a bad year. Potentially a top-five draft pick kind of year. Analysts predicted the team to have a total of four, five, or six wins during the season, and clearly were going to be the worst team in the AFC East.

Think back to September. The Dolphins were 1-3 after a brutal start to the season in which they visited three 2015 Playoff teams on the road. It was a killer beginning to an era with a new head coach and completely new offensive and defensive schemes. Expectations before the season were a 1-3 start, possibly 2-2 if the team could take advantage of the New England Patriots being without Tom Brady while he served a four-game suspension. 3-1 or 4-0 were pipe dreams.

The Dolphins lost to the Tennessee Titans in Week 5, a game many at the time thought would be an “easy” game after the Dolphins’ brutal start - but the Titans are a better team than pre-season expectations would have had you believe.

Then, magic started.

Week 6. Win number two.

Week 7. Win number three.

Week 8. Bye.

Week 9. Win number four.

Week 10. Win number five.

Week 11. Win number six.

Week 12. Win number seven.

Miami rolled to six straight wins. They were 7-4 on the year, surpassing expectations for the year and bringing back a fan base that was ready for another horrible season in a long line of horrible seasons.

This past Sunday, the Dolphins did not look like the same team that had tallied those six-straight victories. They looked like the team people expected them to be before the season started. The Baltimore Ravens did whatever they wanted to Miami, and the Dolphins could not stop it. The Playoffs, a distinct possibility at 12:59pm Sunday morning, seemed like an idea that should never have even been considered just after the game’s 1pm kickoff.

But, are the Playoffs the real measure of success for the Dolphins this year? Yes, every NFL team comes into the season looking to win the Super Bowl. The Playoffs are a stepping stone to that goal, and should be seen as an important measure of success by every team.

Does “by” mean “for” though? If the Dolphins finish this season 8-8, 9-7, or 10-6, did they not have a successful year? Are you, as a fan, not happy to see the team moving in the right direction? What if they sweep through the remaining games on their schedule - versus the Arizona Cardinals, at the New York Jets, at the Buffalo Bills, and versus the Patriots - and finish 11-5, but miss the Playoffs? Are they a failure for not making the postseason tournament?

What does a team that was expected to be 6-10 at best, but is currently 7-5, need to do to have a “successful” season?

This team is not a Super Bowl contender, yet. They are a surprising Playoff contender. They are a team moving in the right direction after more than a decade of mediocrity.

So, what is success for this team?