Pro Football Focus released their 2016 AFC projections on Friday, providing a final record for all 16 teams in the conference. The site's Nathan Jahnke describes the post, writing, "While plenty can change between now and the start of the season, here is how I expect each AFC team’s schedule to shake out." Hopefully, his outlook is completely wrong because you have to scroll to the bottom of the list to find the Dolphins.
The article starts with the Pittsburgh Steelers claiming the top seed in the conference with a 13-3 record, followed by the New England Patriots at 12-4, the Oakland Raiders at 11-5 and the Cincinnati Bengals also finishing 11-5. The Wildcard spots for the Playoffs would then go to the 10-6 Denver Broncos and the 9-7 Kansas City Chiefs.
That also is the list of the only teams PFF has finishing the season with a winning record in 2016. Then you start the fall. Dolphins 8-8? Nope.
6-10? Keep scrolling.
5-11? Still now.
4-12? There they are, losing the tie breaker to the Cleveland Browns.
Of Miami finishing 4-12, PFF writes:
The Dolphins were a 6-10 team last year, lost two of their highest-graded players on defense in Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby, and lost two of their best players on offense in Lamar Miller and Rishard Matthews. In return, they invested in defensive end Mario Williams, who is 31 and coming off the worst year of their career. Their other big additions were linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell. Both players had their best seasons in 2013, so it’s unlikely that they will have a large enough impact to push Miami closer to the playoffs. At least some of the talent is there, but they haven’t been able to put things together yet, so it’s difficult to expect more from the Dolphins soon.
PFF clearly does not like the additions Miami made this offseason, though they do not factor in any of Miami's draft picks, for which PFF has previously said was one of their favorite drafts of the year. Overall, they gave Miami a B- for their offseason grades, but then turn around and give them a 4-12 record because "they haven't been able to put things together yet."
If PFF is right, this could be a really long year for Miami. It seems like, in this case, they focused only on the names of Vernon, Shelby, Miller, Matthews, Williams, Alonso, and Maxwell, without any thought to other additions Miami made, including Laremy Tunsil to shore up the offensive line. It also ignores DeVante Parker, who started slowly last year after having foot surgery, but is in position to be the number one receiver this year and outplayed Matthews at the end of the season.
The assumption that Williams is done because last year was his worst year does not give any benefit of the doubt to Williams returning to a pure defensive end role instead of an outside linebacker role he had in Buffalo last year. Alonso and Maxwell have to prove themselves healthy and ready to return to form from a couple of seasons ago, but the players they are replacing in Kelvin Sheppard and Brent Grimes were not exactly healthy, dominating players last year either.
Will Miami make the Playoffs in 2016? Probably not. Will they be 4-12? Probably not. The team, under new head coach Adam Gase, should be moving in the right direction and putting things together. Even if PFF finds it difficult to expect more from the Dolphins.