By Cody Strahm @CodyJStrahm on April 24, 2014
The release of the Miami Dolphins’ 2014 schedule means we can finally begin to prematurely conduct predictions for the season. Projecting results week-to-week during the year is difficult enough, but to do so before the NFL Draft even takes place is nearly impossible. But it’s still fun. Here are my predictions for all 16 games on the Dolphins’ slate.
The Dolphins get one of their toughest matchups of the year right off the bat. But they also get the Patriots at an ideal time. As a 1 p.m. kickoff in early September, the temperatures in South Florida should be scorching. The Dolphins will have all summer to work in the conditions and should be better equipped to handle them. They make it two in row against their rival to kick off the season.
Prediction: Miami 27, New England 24 (1-0)
An early-season triumph over the Patriots could propel the Dolphins in the subsequent weeks. But the Bills are a better football team than their lack of recent success suggests. They’re also a tough matchup for the Dolphins, as evidenced by sweeping Miami in 2013. The Dolphins’ offense isn't quite as anemic as it was last year, but it fails to outscore the EJ Manuel-led Bills.
Prediction: Buffalo 20, Miami 17 (1-1)
The Dolphins return home after a letdown in Buffalo to face a Chiefs team that won 11 games in 2013. Andy Reid’s club certainly remains formidable, but appears poised for regression. The Dolphins begin to establish themselves a tough team to beat at home with a complete effort on both sides of the ball while Ryan Tannehill’s confidence continues to increase behind a revamped offensive line.
Prediction: Miami 31, Kansas City 17 (2-1)
After an impressive second home win, the Dolphins are back on the road in Week 4…sort of. While they must travel, it’s not a true road game. That’s because the Raiders must travel too -- nearly 1,000 miles more than Miami. The game will be played in London’s Wembley Stadium. At a neutral site, the best team should emerge victorious. That’s probably the Dolphins, although a cakewalk shouldn't be assumed.
Prediction: Miami 24, Oakland 16 (3-1)
After a 3-1 start, the Dolphins’ off week arrives with an opportunity for rest and recovery. Although the Dolphins would probably prefer their bye to take place later on in the season, when fatigue is more prevalent, it gives them an extra week to prepare for one of their toughest matchups of the year.
An opportunity to make a statement win awaits after the bye. When quarterback Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the Packers possess one of the most explosive passing attacks in the game. Beat them after a 3-1 start, and the nation will be forced to take your team seriously as a legitimate contender. Rodgers through the air and Eddie Lacy on the ground proves to be too much for Miami’s defense, though.
Prediction: Green Bay 34, Miami 24 (3-2)
The Dolphins look to rebound, but face a difficult road trip to the Windy City. Soldier Field is always a tough place to play and Chicago has a formidable club despite missing the playoffs in each of its past three campaigns. The Dolphins fall back to .500 after an impressive start, failing to pick up their first true road win of the year. Brandon Marshall enjoys a victory over his former team.
Prediction: Chicago 24, Miami 23 (3-3)
After back-to-back losses, the Dolphins welcome the sight of a struggling intrastate rival. The Jaguars might have improved down the stretch of the 2013 season, but they’re still a year or two away from emerging as quality team, especially considering Chad Henne is penciled in as the opening day starter at quarterback. The Dolphins win, comfortably.
Prediction: Miami 30, Jacksonville 14 (4-3)
For whatever reason, the Dolphins have seemingly had the Chargers number over the past two decades, winning eight of their past 10 matchups. Of course, the past will have no bearing on what happens in Week 9, but the trend continues. Ryan Tannehill and Philip Rivers both play well, but only Tannehill’s team leaves with a win.
Prediction: Miami 31, San Diego 27 (5-3)
The Dolphins look to reverse their struggles on the road and versus the NFC North. The Lions have stumbled to back-to-back losing seasons after finally making the postseason in 2011, but they remain a talented squad. Calvin Johnson proves to be a difficult cover for even the pesky Brent Grimes and the difference in the ball game. The Dolphins fall to 0-3 versus the NFC North.
Prediction: Detroit 28, Miami 24 (5-4)
A nationally-televised audience awaits in Week 11 as the Dolphins look to end their three-game skid versus the Bills. With a playoff berth becoming a possibility, the Dolphins come out fired up to best their division rival. That’s exactly what they do, Finally holding their own in the trenches, the Dolphins pick up an emotional-charged victory under the lights.
Prediction: Miami 27, Buffalo 13 (6-4)
After a big win over the Bills, the Dolphins play perhaps their toughest game of the year. The Denver Broncos are the defending AFC champions and have gone all in this offseason to raise the Lombardi Trophy in February. Miami can surface as a legitimate contender with a win, but Denver’s talent is too imposing to overcome. Peyton Manning and the Broncos win easily.
Prediction: Denver 30, Miami 20 (6-5)
The Dolphins don’t play the Jets until December for the second consecutive year. And, once again, their two showdowns will likely decide if Joe Philbin’s club will be participating in playoff football or watching it from the couch. Like in its last trip to the Meadowlands, Miami’s passing game and New York’s lack thereof is the difference under the bright lights of Monday Night Football
Prediction: Miami 24, New York Jets 17 (7-5)
The Dolphins remain in the thick of the wildcard race with four games to play. But the playoff-hungry Ravens come to town with an awful lot to prove. This will be no easy win for the Dolphins, and, in many ways, could be the game where Miami can either finally get over the hump of mediocrity or remain trapped by it. The Dolphins win a tight battle.
Prediction: Miami 23, Baltimore 20 (8-5)
Needing a win in Foxborough to compete for the AFC East title, the Dolphins attempt to sweep the Patriots for the first time since 2000. They’re competitive early, but Tom Brady proves too consistent and New England’s defense rises to the occasion in the wintry conditions. The Dolphins are relegated to the Wildcard fight.
Prediction: New England 26, Miami 13 (8-6)
Much like in 2013, the Dolphins stand two wins away from a playoff berth entering Week 16. If the team has truly improved, if Tannehill has taken the next step as a quarterback, if Joe Philbin has learned from his mistakes, the final two weeks is where it needs to show. It does in the first matchup as Bill Lazor’s offense has its most prolific showing of the year.
Prediction: Miami 38, Minnesota 17 (9-6)
The Dolphins’ path to redemption comes full circle. Just like in 2013, Miami enters the final game needing a home win over the Jets to qualify for the postseason. Only this time around the Dolphins are a more confident and dangerous team. They don’t allow the Jets to spoil the party again. Miami pulls ahead late and punches its ticket to the playoffs.
Prediction: Miami 27, New York Jets 21 (10-6)
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