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3 Keys to the Miami Dolphins Returning to the Playoffs

It’s a long season. There will be ups and downs. What needs to go right?

Miami Dolphins v San Diego Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

I won’t insult your intelligence: we all know injuries are the undisputed Grim Reaper across the NFL playing field. Seasons, hell, organizations can drift into the abyss if the wrong player(s) gets hurt at the wrong time.

Let’s talk about a few things we can control on the field (and by “we”, I mean not me, I’ll be sitting on a couch with a cold one)...

Improve in the 1st Quarter

Please. Sit down if you are able. This’ll sting. I’ll kiss it and make it better, don’t worry.

The Miami Dolphins have been the worst team in the NFL in 1st quarter time of possession and scoring differential over the past 2 seasons.

Offense and defense were equally awful and responsible for the 1st quarter fallout.

The flipper side of this? We were awesome in the 2nd half in 2016, and the only reason we scratched and clawed our way into the Playoff dance last year. Imagine what we can do if we can combine both halves.

Reflecting on how this defense has been constructed, I believe it’s always been designed as a “play with the lead” type of defense. We were built to get after the QB, but the damnedest thing happened: we couldn’t get out to a lead and reap the benefits. Quite the opposite, teams established the run.

Get out to a lead, pin your ears back - and then imagine what plays Adam Gase could dial up with a lead.

Win Turnovers

Seems simple, right? Well, here’s how our turnover ranking since 2006:

  • 2006: 13th
  • 2007: 23rd
  • 2008: 1st (Playoffs)
  • 2009: 26th
  • 2010: 29th
  • 2011: 24th
  • 2012: 24th
  • 2013: 18th
  • 2014: 14th
  • 2015: 18th
  • 2016: T-13th (Playoffs)

You’ll notice we’ve only been in the top 12 in turnover differential once in 11 years. I happen to think fumbles, one of the 2 main constituents of turnovers aside from interceptions, has a high degree of luck. The football is a funny-shaped object, and it sure bounces weird. (Hint: I think the pendulum is bound to swing the other way.)

Football is a matter of possessions, and there’s a reason a majority of Playoff-bound teams are in the upper echelon of the NFL in turnover margin.

7 of the 12 Playoff participants were in the top 11 in turnover margin last year; 5 NFL Playoff teams occupied the top 6 spots in turnover differential, and both participants in the Super Bowl were top 4.

Above .500 in the Division

The Miami Dolphins were 13-23 in the AFC East in the 6 seasons preceding Adam Gase. Going 4-2 in your division is a big deal: you can go .500 with the rest of the league and be in Playoff contention every year. The Dolphins happened to go 6-4 with the “rest of the league” and dove into a Wild Card spot.

I won’t lie. It seems like the New York Jets are a straight road-kill-cesspool-dirty-band-aid-colostomy-bag this year. I’ll face the stench of everything Week 3 at MetLife Stadium with my Phinsider Radio crew and many others, but I’m looking at the last 6 games as the barometer of the 2017 season: we have both our home-and-away games with the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills. Can we split with each or sweep one (or the other)?

What are your key components for another Miami Dolphins Playoff run?