By Scoop Fox
We are 3 weeks away from the final week in the NFL. Already we are seeing which teams are bona fide contenders to reach Super Bowl XLVIII, which teams could get lucky, and then of course the teams who should not make the playoffs at all. Today we go south to the warm, sunny beaches of Miami to observe the Miami Dolphins.
Right now the Dolphins are 7-6 in the win-loss column. This includes a 1-2 record against their AFC divisional rivals and 6-3 in the AFC Conference. They are currently the #6 seed in the AFC wildcard standings over the Baltimore Ravens based off of AFC conference winning percentage (.667 for the Dolphins against .600 for the Ravens).
On the offensive side of the ball, they rank 21st in scoring (22.0 ppg), 19th in passing (229.6 ypg), 23rd in rushing (95.8), and 24th in overall offense (325.4 ypg). They are led by QB Ryan Tannehill who already has 3,315 yards passing on 300-of-484 (62.0% completion) with 20 TDs and 14 INTs. On the ground, they boast a tandem of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, each rushing over 375+ yards and a receiving core of WR Brian Hartline (67 catches for 855 yards, 4 TD), off-season acquisition Mike Wallace (58 catches for 762, 3 TD) and up and coming TE Charles Clay (60 catches for 678 yards, 6 TD).
On the defensive side, the Dolphins rank 9th in scoring (21.2 ppg), 13th in passing defense (229.8 ypg), 23rd in run defense (118.8 ypg), and 16th in overall defense (348.7 ypg). Not to mention this Dolphins unit is 5th in sacks with 40.0, 8th in pass deflected (86), and tied for 5th in interceptions (15). You got standouts like DEs Olivier Vernon (11.5 sacks) and Cameron Wake (7.5 sacks) that can easily get to the quarterback as well as offseason acquisition CB Brent Grimes teaming up with CB Dimitri Patterson to establish a very effective CB Duo. Not to mention LBs Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler who are tackling machines (82 for Wheeler and 92 for Ellerbe).
As it stands, the Dolphins are facing a tough stretch. Aside from the showdown at home against the division-leading New England Patriots, the Dolphins play two more games against AFC East opponents (Week 16 at Buffalo and Week 17 at home against the Jets).
So are the Dolphins bona fide contenders, lucky to get in, or pretenders? Scoop Fox believes that the Dolphins will be lucky to get in. Here’s why.
Now as much as you want to give the Dolphins all the credit in the world for surviving the brunt of the Incognito-Martin scandal, you could tell that it distracted them greatly. After the story broke out in early October, the Dolphins lost 4 of the following 5 games. People can argue that scandal would distract any team in the NFL. True, it would distract an NFL team. But that’s only if said NFL team didn’t have a team leader/locker room presence. In year’s past, the Dolphins had DE Jason Taylor who was essentially the team leader and dictated how the locker room acted on and off the field. Now that he’s gone, it seems like things have gone a little too wild down in South Beach.
But aside from the Incognito-Martin scandal, the real reason why the Dolphins are fighting for their playoff lives is because of their offense. Though Tannehill has already best his 2012 totals in yards, completion percentage, and touchdowns, he also has a tendency to turn the ball over in crucial moments of a game. He has 19 turnovers (14 INT and 5 Fumbles Lost) and has been sacked 47+ times, a Dolphins. Not to mention for the money that he signed, Wallace has a tendency to disappear during games. Combined with a running game that is very anemic, all those offensive woes contributed to them being 24th in Time of Possession (average 29 min and 12sec per game). The defense has been stout and hardy all year but sooner or later the damn will break and there will be nothing to stop it.
Unless the Dolphins do something to improve their offensive woes, they could find themselves one-and-done in the playoffs. Or even worse…not even make it to the dance. But then again they could be that one team that comes out of the wildcard round to run the table. Who knows? But the only ones who can shape their destiny are the Dolphins players. For their sake, they need to shape their destiny into some wins.
This is Scoop Fox, signing off.
Support WBOB Sports