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ESPN has the Dolphins winning 8 games next season ... or 2, depending on how you look

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is expected to be back and be Miami's starter in 2018.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is expected to be back and be Miami's starter in 2018. AP

The full 2018 NFL schedule has been released and with that come the way-too-early predictions for how all 32 teams will fare in a season that doesn't begin until September.

ESPN released those first batch of predictions Thursday night, with 31 staff writers making their game-by-game predictions for the team that they cover.

So how will the Miami Dolphins fare heading into Adam Gase's third year? It depends on who you ask.

If it's Mike Rodak, the Dolphins will go 8-8 next season. This includes a 2-4 in the AFC East, splitting with the Jets and Patriots and being swept by the Bills (the other team whose season outlook he was tasked with predicting); three wins against the NFC North, including a road win at Green Bay and six wins over a span of seven games in the middle of the season before losing four of the final five.

Rodak's explanation for a .500 season was simple.

"The return of Ryan Tannehill should help Miami bounce back from a lost 2017, but the roster has seen too many changes to assume Adam Gase can get back to the playoffs after making the postseason as a first-year coach in 2016," Rodak wrote. "The Dolphins feel like a middling team teetering on another rebuild. Late-season games hosting the Patriots and Jaguars, and on the road against Minnesota, could determine their season."

Fair enough.

But if you ask the rest of the ESPN writers how the Dolphins will fare, well, it isn't pretty.

Miami's record based on the predictions of the 13 writers who cover teams facing Miami next year: 2-14. Ouch.

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The aggregate prediction has Miami losing its first eight games and only winning its home contests against the Jets and the Patriots.

A differing opinion here or there is to be expected in predictions like these when so many hands are involved. In fact, when all 32 predicted records from Thursday are put together, ESPN has the NFL winning 289 of a possible 256 games — statistically impossible, but amusing nonetheless. All but six teams, according to ESPN's staff writers, will finish with at least an 8-8 record.

But a six-game differential? That's eye-popping regardless of how one feels about a certain team.

Here's how the six-game swing came to be:

Week 1: Rodak has the Dolphins winning their season opener against the Tennessee Titans. Cameron Wolfe, however, doesn't see that happening, citing Miami's "lack of an identity at QB, and throughout the team."

Week 3: Rodak has Miami defeating Oakland at Hard Rock Stadium. Paul Gutierrez has Jon Gruden earning his first win as the Raiders head coach after starting with a pair of losses.

Week 6: Rodak has Miami winning at home against the Chicago Bears. Jeff Dickerson says not so fast. His short-and-sweet explanation: "Dowell Loggains' revenge? Not a chance."

Week 7: Another NFC North team visits Miami. This time the Detroit Lions. Rodak has another W going Miami's way. Michael Rothstein doesn't see it happening. "The Lions have more talent on both sides of the ball and a better quarterback," Rothstein writes. "That's enough."

Week 10: Rodak has Miami pulling arguably its biggest upset of the season, winning on the road against the Green Bay Packers before moving into its bye week. Rob Demovsky picked the Packers to win, but he left some wiggle room in his prediction: "The [Packers'] only home game in November should end the mini-losing streak unless they’re so worn out from two tough road games."

Week 12: Fresh off a bye week, Rodak predicts Miami will pull off a road win against the Indianapolis Colts. Mike Wells' take on the game: "Running back Frank Gore and Luck will both be playing in this game. The difference is they won't be teammates for the first time since 2014. Luck shows Gore the type of quarterback he could have been when healthy, which Gore didn't see too often his Colts' tenure."

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