Miami Dolphins 2015 Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions
The Miami Dolphins, one of the more tradition-rich organizations in the NFL, haven't won a playoff game since 2000. Heck, since 2000, the Dolphins have only made the playoffs twice, with the most recent berth coming during an 11-win campaign in 2008.
Their biggest obstacle in that time has been the rise of the New England Patriots, Miami's AFC East rival, as the NFL's premier organization. Since the Dolphins last division title in 2000, New England has won the AFC East 12 times in 14 years. In that 14-year stretch, Miami has a lowly 9-21 record against the Patriots.
Someday -- it probably can't come soon enough for Miami fans (or supporters of any other AFC East team) -- Tom Brady will retire and the door will open for someone else to become kings of the division. Until then, though, New England has to enter any season as the favorite in the AFC East.
Under Joe Philbin, Miami and young quarterback Ryan Tannehill have been improving, albeit slowly, these past two seasons. After being under .500 four consecutive years, the Dolphins won eight games in both 2013 and 2014, flirting with a playoff berth last year until losing three of their final four contests.
Their performance against New England, the divisional bully, has improved, as well, with Miami winning their last two home games versus the Patriots.
Miami may have made more headlines than any other team this offseason. It's not sure sign of success, but they're not standing by idly.
Defensively, the Dolphins landed a cornerstone of their unit in free agency, spending $114 million on Ndamukong Suh, one of the game's top interior defensive linemen. Also in free agency, Miami inked athletic tight end Jordan Cameron, who has a pro bowl season on his resume.
Via trade, the Dolphins landed promising young receiver Kenny Stills. They shipped off wideout Mike Wallace and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe in separate deals. Miami also resigned center Mike Pouncey to a gigantic five-year, $52.2-million extension.
In the draft, Miami's notable selections included receiver DeVante Parker in the first round and running back Jay Ajayi, whose stock suffered a free fall amid knee concerns, in the fifth. The Dolphins also added guard Jamil Douglas (fourth round) and cornerback Bobby McCain (fifth round).
With the financial investment ownership has made, the Dolphins are certainly in win-now mode. But will all the offseason moves get Miami over the 8-8 hump? Let's go through the Dolphins upcoming schedule and see how it shakes out.
Week 1: Washington 24, Miami 21
This was a toss-up for me. If the game was in Miami, I'd have the Dolphins winning, but it's a road contest. These are the type of games -- on the road against a bottom-third team -- that a team with playoff aspirations needs to win. Robert Griffin III doesn't excel, but he doesn't make any crucial mistakes, either, as he bests Tannehill, his fellow fourth-year quarterback.
Week 2: Miami 31, Jacksonville 23
The Jaguars have added a lot of young talent on offense the last two seasons, but Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake should destroy Jacksonville's porous offensive line and hand Miami their first road win of the season.
Week 3: Miami 24, Buffalo 13
The Bills have one of the NFL's premier front sevens, limiting Lamar Miller and the run game, but Tannehill and his new weapons help Miami win its home debut.
Week 4: Miami 20, New York Jets 14
Much like Buffalo, the Jets have an elite defensive line, but Brandon Marshall, Geno Smith, Eric Decker and New York's stable of running backs can't do enough offensively. Miami relies on it's air attack, with new additions Stills and Parker making the difference.
Week 5: Bye
Week 6: Miami 30, Tennessee 13
Rookie Marcus Mariota and the Titans' weak offensive line are an awful recipe when facing Suh and Wake. Mariota will make some plays with his legs, but he can't do nearly enough with his arm. After two games against stout run defenses, Lamar Miller erupts in this one.
Week 7: Miami 24, Houston 14
Coach Bill O'Brien has done well with a pretty solid Houston roster, but as of now, Ryan Mallett is the Texans signal caller. That's not going to be good enough to get a road win at Miami. The Brent Grimes-DeAndre Hopkins battle will be a treat to watch. Oh, yeah, J.J. Watt and Suh in the same game, that'll be fun -- and a little scary.
Week 8: New England 34, Miami 24
In a Thursday tilt, the Patriots continue their mastery of the Dolphins in Foxboro. Miami has lost its last six games at Gillette Stadium, with only one of those being a single-digit defeat. The loss starts a tough three-game road trip for the Dolphins.
Week 9: Buffalo 17, Miami 14
Grimes bottles up Sammy Watkins, but the combination of LeSean McCoy and coach Rex Ryan's defense is too much for Miami to overcome. McCoy does most of his damage catching balls out of the backfield.
Week 10: Philadelphia 30, Miami 17
The Eagles make it three straight losses for the Dolphins. I don't know if Sam Bradford is still playing quarterback for Philadelphia, but Chip Kelly proved last season, when the Eagles finished third in points per game with Mark Sanchez getting eight starts, that he doesn't need a top-tier quarterback to score points.
Week 11: Miami 24, Dallas 20
In a hard-fought battle, Miami halts the skid and edges the Cowboys in their return home. Dallas still has a premier offensive line, but Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle aren't giving the Cowboys the same level of production as DeMarco Murray did a year ago. Grimes, in a showdown with Dez Bryant, two of the NFL's best at their positions, does just enough to get his team the victory.
Week 12: Miami 17, New York Jets 16
Miami hits the road and pulls out the win in an ugly, punt-filled game thanks to a late field goal. The offense struggles against the fierce front of the Jets, but Dolphins defense saves the day.
Week 13: Baltimore 24, Miami 20
Baltimore, in line for a top seed in the AFC, won at Miami a year ago, starting the Dolphins' late-season slide. The Ravens do it again. Joe Flacco hooks up with rookie Breshad Perriman for a long bomb, and Miami can't prevent Justin Forsett from running out the clock.
Week 14: Miami 37, New York Giants 20
The offense has their best day of the season in this Monday night home romp, with consistent producer Jarvis Landry scoring twice. Lamar Miller has another big game, and Tannehill surpasses the 300-yard mark. Eli helps the cause with an early pick-six.
Week 15: San Diego 27, Miami 23
In a battle between two fringe playoff teams, it's the Chargers who prevail in San Diego. Miami limits Melvin Gordon, but Rivers and his two tight ends -- Ladarius Green and the timeless Antonio Gates -- punish the Dolphins.
Week 16: Miami 30, Indianapolis 27
Entering with an 8-6 mark, Miami ensures themselves a winning record with the win over the Colts. The Dolphins jump out to a 20-0 lead behind Miller's solid first half and a long Stills score, but Andrew Luck and company storm back in the second half. In the end, Miami gets a late Cameron touchdown for some breathing room and holds off the high-powered Colts. Miller has one of his best games as a pro, electrifying the home crowd with multiple big gains and finishing with over 150 yards.
Week 17: New England 30, Miami 24
The AFC East crown was already decided, but New England still edges the Dolphins in the regular-season finale. Gronkowski and Brady connect for two touchdowns, and a fourth-quarter Tannehill pick seals the win for the Patriots, who snap a two-game losing streak at Sun Life Stadium.
In the end, I have Miami finishing 9-7. Is it enough to get them in the playoffs? probably not. Although it's still an improvement over the past two seasons.
No NFL schedule is ever easy, but the Dolphins only play one 2014 playoff team in their first eight games. It's realistic to think Miami will be favored in their first six games. If they started 6-0, they'd have to suffer a historic collapse to miss the postseason, but I'm betting on at least one slip-up during the initial stretch.
It's just the opposite in the second half of the year. Starting with the Thursday trip to New England, Miami may be the underdog in all but two games -- at Buffalo and home against the Giants -- the rest of the way. The Dolphins need to stockpile wins early and then hold on for dear life from there.
The critical games will be road contests at Washington and Buffalo, both of which I have Miami losing. If the Dolphins can win one of those games and get to 10 wins, it would increase their chances at getting into the postseason.
Other swing games, or games I can see being toss-ups, are the home tilts with Baltimore and Indianapolis, which I have Miami splitting. Both the Colts and Ravens are better than Miami, but the Dolphins are more than capable of beating either team.