We did it! We really really did it! We saved Christmas! We saved the New Year! We saved 2016! We made the playoffs!
This football season has been an unexpected joy down in Miami. The most illogical of fans could not have predicted 10 wins. Gase learning on the job, the offense finally starting to click, and a schedule that was forgiving on the back end got the Fins into a position they hadn’t seen since 2008, the playoffs. Let’s start by looking at the positives, your 2016 playoff bound Dolphins!
The season started bad during the 1-4 start versus one of the hardest starting schedules in the NFL. The slow hurry up offense was not providing pace, the oline was on the verge of being historically bad again, there was no running game, and the qb play was awful. That team was averaging 17.6 points per game. The Dolphins had blown a lead versus the Seahawks after being up most the game and dropping an easy TD. Landry seemed to be the only reason we were even getting that much and was the entire focal point of the offense. There was 3 good quarters out of Tannehill during the Patriots game followed by 3 awful games versus the Browns, Bengals, and Titans. The Titans game was especially bad because the Dolphins threw the ball only 18 times, and the qb was hit on 9 of those. Something had to change, Gase got to changing it. Gase quickly let go several offensive lineman after that game in what many thought was an empty move.
Then came the Steelers game and several things aligned. It was the first game the projected starting 5 lineman played together. Jay Ajayi got let out of the doghouse. The slow hurry up was scrapped for a normal paced offense that relied more on Ryan Tannehill’s mobility and his strengths out of the pocket. The results? A pwerful running game that came out of nowhere where Ajayi averaged more than 3.5 yards a carry after contact. That allowed the play action and read option game to open. The next 5 games Miami averaged 26 points a game and went on averaged over 25 for the rest of the season. At 25 points per game, Miami would be in the top 10 in the NFL.
In week 14 Miami lost it’s starting qb to what is currently a season ending injury, and Matt Moore stepped in with a spectacular game versus the Jets. Since then, he has significantly cooled down, but the offense was still able to step up to pull out a win in Buffalo, thus clinching the first playoff spot in a long time.
This defense is so good that its defense coordinator is getting calls from all over the NFL in regards to head coaching jobs. Ok, so only part of that is true. It’s not the defense being good part though.
Miami is 29th in the NFL in Yards, 30th in giving up rushing yards, and 18th in giving up 23.8 points per game. At least Miami is a top 15 in pass defense!
The only bright side to the defense is that it has 25 take aways on the year. 17 of those came over the last 8 games. With the offense taking care of the ball better, that meant a plus 11 advantage down the stretch. This team has had injuries destroy the secondary, the linebacking corp has been anemic, and Miami can’t stop a poodle from chasing the mailman. The only hope for Miami in the playoffs is if the defense channels their inner SB run Saints defense and starts finding every turnover possible in the history of ever.
This is the great enigma for Miami. This unit has lost games and won games for the team. There have been clutch field goals made and easy ones missed. For continued success next year, there needs to be more consistency out of special teams. For a shot in the playoffs, there needs to be some magic.
Playoffs, we are talking about Playoffs!
We will be talking about one week of playoffs as Miami fans to be exact. Speaking of the Saints, Big Ben has attempted to channel his inner Drew Brees and put up some of the most lopsided home/away splits one can see from a HOF qb. This game is obviously at Heinz Field. Miami has also been lopsided on home/away splits and in the completely opposite direction. They won 7 of their 10 at home. Couple that with Miami completely forgetting how to stop the run, it’s first playoff game in nearly a decade, a rookie coach, a backup qb who is known for gunslinging that hasn’t completed a pass that’s traveled 10 yards through the air in 2 weeks, and a completely healthy Big Ben, it would take a new type of miracle for Miami to survive.
Miami had the perfect storm the first time around, oppressive heat, a 200 yard game by Ajayi, a great game by Tannehill, a defense that picked up Big Ben two times. That storm doesn’t make it to the North this time around.
The Spread is Steelers laying 10. I hope I am completely incorrect in saying this, but I’d take the Steelers and the points.