With the Dolphins' season beginning tomorrow afternoon, now is a good time to post my predictions for the team's season as well as for their week one game versus the Falcons.
For the season, I'm predicting a 7-9 record and falling short of the playoffs. I think Miami will finish second in the AFC East behind the Patriots.
But a losing season after Miami's magical 2008 campaign doesn't mean this season would have been a lost one. All the young players need to show significant improvement and I think they'll get every opportunity to do so. If they do, Miami should set itself up in prime position to compete in 2010.
There's just too much riding against Miami this year. They have the fourth toughest schedule in the league according to opponents' projected DVOA; their immaculate health from last season will regress to the mean; and Miami's historically low turnover rate will inevitably rise. It may be too much to expect two straight seasons of complete health from Chad Pennington. It's also been shown that teams that win four or fewer games one season and ten or more the next season go on to drop an average of 2.7 games the following year. At this point, I don't see why Miami would be the exception to the rule.
All this being said, there's obviously still a decent chance that Miami could buck the trends two seasons in a row and make the playoffs again. After last year, I won't write anything off. But that doesn't mean I'm going to predict that that is what's going to happen.
As for Miami's first game against the Falcons, I actually think the Phins can and will find some way to pull this game out. Miami's defense is certainly going to face a really tough test against Michael Turner, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Matt Ryan. But Atlanta's defense is so putrid that Pennington should be able to carve it up with ease.
If this game were at home, I'd be much more confident about predicting a win. But I am in fact predicting a win regardless.