By: Chip Turner
The preseason is over, the roster has been trimmed, and a fully-recovered Tua Tagovailoa is ready to lead the Miami Dolphins. The calendar has turned to September, and Week One is just 10 days away.
It’s time for Miami Dolphins football.
What follows is a week-by-week analysis of the first 8 games of the Miami Dolphins season. This is, of course, a week-to-week league, injuries happen, and what teams look like in September can be very different from what they look like in January. Hence, I’m only predicting the first eight weeks of the season.
Week One - @ Patriots. 9/12 at 4:25 pm
Some people don’t like the time of this game. I love it. It’s very, very likely that this will be the final game of the afternoon to conclude, and a large portion of the national audience will be paying attention to this broadcast in the fourth quarter.
So…I know that they’re the Patriots. And I know that Bill Belichick is very good at hiding his teams’ weaknesses. But here are a few things that are factual, and cannot be spun:
1)The Patriots’s starters at WR are currently Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers. I’m aware of what Agholor did against the Dolphins in that berserk Raiders game last year, but this duo shouldn’t scare anyone in the NFL.
2)This will be Mac Jones’s first NFL start. I know some New England media outlets are ready to declare him the next Tom Brady, but let’s not compare him to the best QB in league history until he throws a regular season pass, okay?
3)Stephon Gilmore is out. Yes, JC Jackson is a good CB, and there might not be a better team at disguising coverages in the NFL, but that Patriots secondary is starting to look very thin and old after him. Quick show of hands; who in New England feels comfortable with Jalen Mills playing boundary corner? That’s what I thought.
Prediction: I’d love to predict a blowout for Miami here, but I don’t think that’s realistic, even though the Patriots tend to be slow starters. The Dolphins get a decent lead and hold on. Miami wins 28-20.
Week Two – vs Buffalo. 9/19 at 1:00 pm
This is Miami’s home opener, and I expect it to be near full capacity. I’m looking forward to this game, and I’m curious to see what sort of noise a stadium full of Dolphins fans will sound like with the roof in place (remember, that’s supposed to reflect sound back down to the field.)
Make no mistake, Buffalo is now one of the best teams in the league, and Josh Allen is one of the best QBs.
I don’t think Brian Flores likes being embarrassed. And the Bills embarrassed the Dolphins in the final game of the season last year. If Miami wants to become a contender for the AFC East crown, they’re going to have to go through Buffalo to do it. Do I think that crowning happens this year? No, but I think this is the game that makes people sit up, pay attention, and realize that the Miami Dolphins are getting there much faster than anyone anticipated. Jaelan Phillips announces his presence in the NFL with authority. Miami wins 31-30.
Week Three - @ Las Vegas. 9/26 at 4:05 pm
Anyone who has listened to me speak about the Raiders can attest to this: I don’t have any idea what Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock are doing…and I’m not sure they do, either. While I like their ends in Crosby and Ngakoue, there’s not a whole lot else on this team that concerns me except for Darren Waller, and I’d like to think the Dolphins learned from their mistake with him last time. Some might think of this as a revenge game for the Raiders. I’m of the opinion this will be the game that illustrates the stark difference between “2020 Tua” and “2021 Tua.” Miami wins 35-14. Yeah, I said it.
Week Four – vs. Indy, 10/3 at 1:00 pm
I really struggled with this one, for a few reasons. First, I am of the opinion that Frank Reich is a very, very good coach. Second, I think he’s going to be able to revive the career of Carson Wentz, whom I believe was bereft of talent and coaching last year. Third, every NFL team has games they just come out flat for.
However, I just can’t convince myself that this is that game. Carson might start rounding back into form, but I don’t know if it’s this early. If this game was later in the season or on the road, I’d probably flip the score, but Miami wins 24-21.
Week Five - @ Tampa Bay, 10/10 at 1:00 pm
“Young.” “Upstart.” “Surprising.” Get ready to hear all of these adjectives used about the Dolphins heading into this game against the defending Super Bowl Champions. 4-0 heading into this game? Who would have thought this was possible?
Well, me. And yes, that Week Two Buffalo game prediction keeps staring at me and saying, “you sure?” Regardless, Miami should have everyone’s attention at this point, and the question will be “Can this plucky Brian Flores team beat the champs in their house?”
Alas, no. Tampa Bay at full strength proves to be a little too much for Miami on the road. Tampa Bay wins 28-21.
Week Six - @ Jacksonville in London, 10/17 at 9:30 am
Breakfast tea and biscuits for everyone! Two of the more heralded college QB prospects in recent memory go head-to-head as Tua and Lawrence face off. While I think both quarterbacks will live up to their potential, Lawrence is going to have some growing pains.
I don’t think Jacksonville is going to be a very good team this year. I also don’t think Urban Meyer is a very good pro football coach.
Miami wins this one handily, 31-7.
Week Seven – vs. Atlanta, 10/24 at 1:00 pm
Remember that thing I said earlier about NFL teams being flat every once in a while? This is the game that just screams “letdown” to me. Two tough games in a row, followed by a trip to London, then back home for a game against the Falcons. They should beat the Falcons, and I suspect they’ll be favored for it.
But on any given Sunday….
Atlanta wins 41-38 after a Tua comeback in the fourth quarter comes up just short.
Week Eight - @Buffalo, 10/31 at 1:00 pm
Halloween in Orchard Park. What could be more fun? Well…lots of things, probably. We’ll get plenty of pre-game festivities as countless costumed Buffalonians fling themselves through folding tables.
Folks, this is going to turn into a rivalry again, very quickly. A cold, blustery October day will result in low scoring, hard hitting, and a closer-than-expected result.
Buffalo wins, 17-14.
Miami finishes a difficult first eight games with a 5-3 record. The second half predictions will take place in a couple months, but here’s a teaser: They play the Jets twice and Houston once.
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