As just about everyone knows by now, the Miami Dolphins' season opener at Hard Rock Stadium against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been postponed until Week Eleven, which means that the team will instead open its season on the road next Sunday, at the StubHub center - capacity 27,000 - in suburban Los Angeles, against the Chargers. While this isn't the ideal way for any sports franchise to open its season, when one looks at the bigger picture, Dolphin fans have a lot to look forward to.
Depending on who you believe, Miami has had either the worst or second worst home field advantage in the NFL over the past ten years, and have posted a winning record on their home turf just three times since 2007. One of those winning home records was last season, when they went 6-2, losing only to Tennessee and New England. Still, if it is darkest just before the dawn, the Dolphins would appear to be finally turning the corner as an organization.
While it was nice to see Miami squeak into the playoffs in the last week of the season a year ago, that postseason berth if we're honest with ourselves, was probably an aberration. That isn't necessarily why fans should be optimistic about the future, however. This turnaround, which to be sure, is still taking place, has been years in the making. Owner Stephen Ross bought the team for $1.1 billion in 2009, but after spending another $500 million to upgrade the stadium over the past two years, it's worth considerably more than that now. Hiring Adam Gase, when several other teams were vying for his services eighteen months ago, was a coup that should continue to pay dividends for years to come. Like most great coaches, Gase seems to genuinely love what he does; he doesn't appear to be a candidate for burnout, like a Jimmy Johnson or a Mike Ditka, for example.
Whether they can keep all three of them remains to be seen, but for 2017, at least, Miami has what should be one of the most productive groups of receivers in the game, in DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Jarvis Landry. To garner more prime time television appearances and thus expand its fan base around the country, a team must either win a lot of games or be exciting, and we know that the Dolphins will be exciting this season. In terms of the quarterback situation, Chris summed things up very well recently when he said that Jay Cutler really isn't under a whole of pressure this year, simply because the expectations are so much lower for the team with him under center. Any time a team's starting quarterback is out for the year, expectations, by necessity, decrease. Even the defense, long a major weakness for this franchise, figures to be at least marginally better than it was a season ago, and an extra week of preparation, with the opportunity to get guys a little bit healthier, can't hurt.
It was announced last week that for the first time since probably the early 2000's, Miami had sold out its season tickets in their entirety; want to come to town and see the Dolphins? You'd better know somebody or be prepared to pay a ticket broker. I don't know whether the Dolphins will make the postseason again this year; I only know that this should be the last time that Vegas has them being a sub .500 team at the beginning of the season for a long time to come, and that's something we can all be excited about.