Bring up the fact we finished 1-5 in the AFC East last year, I might just punch you in the face. And by punch you in the face, I mean buy you a beer and try to laugh it off. The Miami Dolphins have had a rough stretch in the AFC East over the past 6 years, and when divisional games comprise 37.5% of your yearly win/loss total, you're looking at a key ingredient in mediocrity soup.
Nevermind the win/loss record we have against Playoff opponents over the last 5 years, the only record you need look at is our AFC East record: 13-23.
The 3 most likeliest scenarios of the Miami Dolphins making the Playoffs this year is: avoiding the injury bug, winning the turnover battle, and/or having a 4-2 or better record in the AFC East. And what's ironic about this whole situation, it's not the Patriots*** that have given us struggles in the last 3 years, it's been the Jets and Bills.
Have we closed the gap against our divisional foes? How does the schedule affect our chances? Is the talent gap becoming less pronounced on paper? What are the most critical factors to taking back the AFC East?
I'll give you 2 reasons why we get to 4-2 in the division, and 2 reasons why it all turns to s***:
How the Miami Dolphins Get to 4-2 in the AFC East
1) We Beat the Bills Twice. This rationale has little science to it, but the Bills seem most likely to replace us in the cellar of the AFC East. Having the Ryan brothers together, an atypical Rex Ryan defense, and a Marcell Dareus rehab stint - I don't know - it just smells of a media parade and I can see that ship sinking fast. I see distractions. I don't see many distractions coming from Jets or Patriots*** camp - although Brandon Marshall is capable of anything.
We face the Bills at Orchard Park in the dead of winter (and the New York Jets in East Rutherford, if you’re feeling sorry for yourself). This will be no easy task.
2) We Beat New England Week 2. Tom Brady's suspension coupled with the schedule yielded us as 1 of the 4 lucky teams to face New England without their future Hall of Famer. To get to a 4-2 record, a win against New England at Foxborough would go a long way not only for morale, but for the bottom line. It'll still be a tough ass game, no question. A rare win at Gillette Stadium would alleviate a difficult path towards a 4-2 AFC East record.
How the Miami Dolphins Duplicate 2015 in the AFC East
1) We Can't Stop the Run. The Jets and Bills destroyed us on the ground last year. If we can't stop the run, the Jets and Bills will continue to own us. I'm fairly certain our pass defense has the ceiling of being average, with the floor of getting absolutely shredded. If we can't stop the run either, we're in trouble.
2) We Can’t Establish the Run. Some of the more ludicrously one-dimensional passing games for Ryan Tannehill have been in the division. There's no way we can keep a defense off-balance with outrageously disproportional pass-to-run ratio. We're going against some formidable defensive lines in the AFC East, and it's going to take some creativity to run the ball. Our running back position group has injury concerns across the board, and it remains to be seen if we can win in the trenches and make AFC East defenses honest.
What do y'all think? I know it's the time of year where there are infinitely more questions than answers, but I'm curious how my Phinsider brethren feel the Dolphins will compare against our AFC East foes. Let's hear it in the Comments Section!
Regular season football is only weeks away...