The 2014 NFL Schedule was release Wednesday, and as usual, Dolphins fans have plenty of reaction. The Dolphins start with back to back division games for the first time in a long time, play the Raiders in London, and have two late season tilts against the Jets. I’ll take a look at each game, and give a prediction of the outcome.
Week 1: vs. New England Patriots
The Dolphins entered week 15 of 2013 needing a huge win over Tom Brady and the Patriots to stay in the playoff hunt. Ryan Tannehill out dueled Brady with a TD drive in the final minutes and Brady threw an interception to then unknown Michael Thomas to seal the deal. The fact that Miami gets New England week 1, and not, say, week 7 or so, is a good break. The fact that it’s at home is another good break. The fact that there may be some rust and a learning curve for the new offensive scheme, not a good break.
Prediction: The Dolphins rarely beat the Patriots, home or away. Tom Brady wanting revenge, mixed with a lack of offensive chemistry in the early going will add up to a Dolphins week 1 loss.
Week 2: at Buffalo Bills
The Dolphins lost twice to Thad Lewis and the Bills in 2013, including a week 16 meltdown in Buffalo. The Dolphins get to travel to Buffalo in September, which is a nice change of pace from snow and rain in December. That said, if the Dolphins think they can sleepwalk through this game, they’re sorely mistaken.
Prediction: I think Joe Philbin gets his team ready for a fight, and the bad taste of last year’s losses is eased a bit in a Dolphins’ win.
Week 3: vs Kansas City
The Chiefs suffered a heartbreaking playoff loss to the Colts in 2013. They’re explosive, play great defense, and don’t turn the ball over. Jamaal Charles is arguably the best dual threat back in the NFL, and if the Dolphins defend the run as they did in 2013, he’ll have a huge day. Branden Albert will be playing his first game against his former team, but will it be enough motivation for the whole team?
Prediction: The Chiefs will run all over the Dolphins en route to a fairly easy win.
Week 4: at Oakland Raiders (London)
The second time the Dolphins will be playing in a London game, since those games began. The Raiders will be an improved bunch this season with additions like Maurice Jones-Drew. The Raiders have to fly almost 1,000 miles further than the Dolphins, and the Dolphins don’t have to sacrifice a home game this time around.
Prediction: The Raiders will be better, but the Dolphins will have enough to beat them in Wembley. Cheerio!
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: vs Green Bay Packers
Joe Philbin against Aaron Rodgers for the first time. It has become clear, to me at least, that Philbin had a lot less to do with Rodgers development than once thought. Philbin will likely highlight this game on his own personal schedule, and it’s a good thing that Green Bay will be visiting Miami. The Packers are a perennial power, and this will be a tough one for Miami. Games like this are the reason resigning Brent Grimes was so big.
Prediction: The Dolphins will play hard like they usually do, but Rodgers will prove to be too much for Miami.
Week 7: at Chicago Bears
The perfect time to visit the windy city, in terms of an NFL schedule, is before November, so the Dolphins got lucky again with this timing. I think some of the predictions for how go Chicago will be are overrated. However, Brandon Marshall was traded by Coach Joe Philbin/ Jeff Ireland amid his off the field struggles a few years back. Marshall is going to have a chip on his shoulder in this one, and Alshon Jeffery will join him. However, the Bears defense is absolutely putrid, and Jay Cutler is prone to mistakes.
Prediction: In a huge mid-season win the Dolphins will make just enough plays, and the Bears (Cutler) will make just enough mistakes for a Dolphins win.
Week 8: at Jacksonville Jaguars
A trip to Jacksonville at the midway point of the season will cure what ails you. I don’t have a lot of analysis for this game. I simply think the Dolphins are much better, and this should be an easy win. I don’t really care who Jacksonville added, if you want to be a playoff team, you win this game.
Prediction: The Dolphins rout Jacksonville and show us they can win games against teams they should beat.
Week 9: vs San Diego
For the second straight year the Dolphins face Phillip Rivers and the Chargers. The Chargers feature a solid running game, along with solid QB play as usual. This will be a great litmus test for Miami, who by losing their final 2 games of 2013 allowed San Diego to sneak into the playoffs. Not this time.
Prediction: The Dolphins will get a great test, and the fact that they don’t have to travel to SoCal is great. Dolphins win a nail biter to keep playoff hopes alive.
Week 10: at Detroit Lions
Remember Reggie Bush? He remembers that the Dolphins didn’t want to pay him. Remember Louis Delmas? He remembers Megatron, Calvin Johnson. Delmas and Bush face their former teams for the first time, and Delmas will have to contend with Megatron in an actual game for the first time. The Lions high powered offense will be very tough for the Dolphins to handle. Can they put up enough points to hang in there?
Prediction: The Dolphins will be overwhelmed by the Lions offense, and will suffer the road loss to a somewhat underachieving teams. The Dolphins simply won’t put up enough points.
Week 11: vs Buffalo Bills (Thursday Night)
Miami finishes their series with Buffalo early this season, and get a home game late in the year this time around. The Dolphins have another chance to beat the Bills in a game that will go a long way toward their playoff dreams. The game comes before a trip to Denver, so the Dolphins must have a sense of urgency in this one.
Prediction: The Dolphins will do to the Bills what the Bills did to the Dolphins in 2013, sweep them.
Week 12: at Denver Broncos
This one could be ugly. The Broncos have loaded up after their Super Bowl beat down, and their defense is much improved. That coupled with Peyton Manning makes for a horrible situations for the Dolphins.
Prediction: The Dolphins receive a swift beating from the Sheriff Peyton Manning in this basically no win situation.
Week 13: New York Jets (Monday Night)
The Dolphins see the Jets for the first time in 2014 in week 13. The hated rivals will host Miami on a Monday night that might end up being the most important game of the season. The Dolphins crushed the Jets, and benched Geno Smith last year at MetLife, so the Jets will have a sour taste in their mouth (Rex always has some kind of taste in his mouth). The additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson will help the Jets’ offense a lot. This will turn out to be a must win game for the Dolphins.
Prediction: If the Dolphins want to make the playoffs, they have to win this game. Must win, will win. Dolphins win by a field goal.
Week 14: vs Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens did everything in their power to let the Dolphins beat them in 2013, and still they couldn’t. I don’t think the outcome this time around is any different. This will be another must win game against a seasoned rival, but I think the Dolphins will come up short in this one.
Prediction: The Dolphins lose a black and blue game vs. Baltimore that comes down to the wire.
Week 15: at New England
This is about as tough as it gets. Traveling to New England in the bitter cold, when Bill Belichick’s teams are rounding in to shape. The Dolphins historically struggle at New England, where Tom Brady rarely loses. A split with New England is about all you can hope for, so this game will also be huge for Miami.
Prediction: Tom Brady doesn’t lose at home late in the season. Brady proves to still be king of the division, beating the Dolphins in a slug it out game.
Week 16: vs Minnesota Vikings
The Dolphins will likely have a lot more to play for than the Vikings in week 16. Miami, according to my predictions will be 7-7 entering this week 16 tilt against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. Though the Vikings aren’t a very good team, Peterson can go wild at any point, so run defense will be a key for Miami. Luckily, once again, the Dolphins get to stay home rather than traveling to frigid Minnesota in December.
Prediction: The Dolphins hold Adrian Peterson in check, which means he’ll have just 120 or so yards, to win this vital late season game moving to 8-7.
Week 17: vs New York Jets
If you wanted a meaningful game to end the season, you got it. This game against the Dolphins bitter rival could decide the playoff fate of both teams. The Jets feature one of the best defenses in the league, and the Dolphins will have a much improved offensive line to combat the Jets furious pass rush. The Jets will be much improved this season, but so will Miami in many respects.
This is the type of game that fans dream about. It’s also the type of game that Dolphins fans have nightmares about.
Prediction: In this win and you’re in scenario, the Dolphins break the hearts of their fans once again. I don’t think the Dolphins are a playoff caliber team, though they have the roster to be that. I think this game will be Joe Philbin’s last as Dolphins coach, and the playoff drought will continue.
There you have it. An 8-8 season for the Dolphins (in my opinion) and another year of no playoffs, and sweeping changes once again.
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