The 2016 NFL season finished with the New England Patriots winning Super Bowl LI in overtime. While teams are preparing for their offseason plans, including free agency and the NFL Draft, ESPN took the opportunity to put together their first 2017 NFL Power Rankings - acknowledging that it is a “way-too-early” edition of their rankings.
Obviously, these rankings are based solely on the results of the 2016 season, so they must follow the final standings, right? For example, the Patriots are ranked in the top spot, while the NFC Champions, the Atlanta Falcons, are ranked second. The Dallas Cowboys, who lost in the divisional round of the playoffs but also had the top regular season record in the league during the past season, are third. The Green Bay Packers are fourth, while the Seattle Seahawks are fifth.
The Miami Dolphins, who finished the year with a 10-6 record and made the Playoffs as an AFC Wildcard team, should be ranked somewhere in the top 10 to 12 spots. That would make sense for a playoff team.
Are they tenth? Nope.
Sixteenth? No. Keep scrolling.
Nineteenth? Nope. The 8-8 Indianapolis Colts are in that position. The Dolphins have to be ahead of a team that finished .500 in the AFC South, right? A team that fired their general manager and seems close to moving on from their head coach too. Maybe they were overlooked in all the scrolling.
Nope. Double check the first 20 rankings, and no Dolphins.
The Miami Dolphins, a 10-6 team that appears to be moving in the right direction after so much mediocrity, are ranked down with the teams that finished well below .500 on the season at 21st. The 22nd ranked team are the Cincinnati Bengals, who were 6-9-1 this past season. What? The explanation must clear up why the Dolphins are so low, right?
Why they're here: Frankly, they're a little low for a team that won nine of its final 11 games to clinch a wild-card playoff berth with a youngish quarterback, a powerhouse tailback (Jay Ajayi) and a promising first-year coach. But it was the Dolphins' first winning season, let alone playoff berth, in eight years, and perhaps it takes more than that to generate believers. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will spend much of the offseason rehabilitating a knee injury, a concern for his continued development under coach Adam Gase. Miami's defense, which allowed 382.6 yards per game -- fourth most in the NFL -- must adjust under new coordinator Matt Burke.
What could change: A draft focus on defense would be smart for Miami's outlook. Although the Dolphins are relatively strong up front, led by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, they could use multiple second-level playmakers at linebacker. The Dolphins might also consider moving guard Laremy Tunsil, the team's No. 1 overall pick in 2016, to his natural left tackle position.
Guess not. So, the Dolphins are not ranked with the other playoff teams, they are not ranked with the other winning teams, they are not ranked with the mediocre teams, they are ranked with the below .500 teams, the bottom third of the league teams, because it is their first winning season in eight years.
Power rankings, which rank how well a team is currently playing, have the Dolphins ranked lowly because of their past. That makes no sense. The explanation does not help explain why ESPN would completely disrespect the Dolphins - again - by dropping them down to 21st when the next lowest ranked team with double digit wins in 2016 are the New York Giants, who are ranked ninth.
The Dolphins head into the 2017 offseason as a playoff team, a double-digit winning team, and a completely disrespected team.
Guess some thing do not change no matter how much everything else changes.