(Image credit: Allen Eyestone/ The Palm Beach Post)
By: Jett Rosenstein
After finishing with a record of 10-6 and just missing the playoffs, the Miami Dolphins are back and hungry for more. The expectations are high for this team heading into 2021. The Dolphins will look to build on a defense that gave up 21.1 PPG (T-5th in the NFL). The defense looks much of the same in 2021 with all-pro corner Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Emmanuel Ogbah (2020 sack leader: 9), and Jerome Baker. The team also welcomes veteran Jason McCourty and both Jevon Holland and Jaelan Phillips from the draft who have a ton of potential. As for the offense, after a lackluster 2020 campaign where the team averaged 25.3 PPG (15th in the NFL), will it get any better in 2021? It all comes down to whether 2nd-year QB Tua Tagovailoa can develop into what he was drafted to be. He has the weapons (Waddle, Fuller, Parker, Gesicki, Gaskin) and has a young and improving (hopefully!) offensive line (Jackson, Hunt, Eichenberg, Kindley, and Davis). Tua is now another year removed from hip surgery and has looked great in both training camp and preseason action. Will the Dolphins get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016? Will they have a shot at the division title? Which matchups on the 2021 slate are the toughest? Here is my 2021 Miami Dolphins Season Preview!
September 12 @ New England (W)
September 19 vs Buffalo (L)
The Dolphins open with 2 straight divisional games. First, they travel to New England for Week 1 where they will face a much-improved team with a new face at QB. It is never easy to win in New England, but with Mac Jones seeing his first regular-season game action, he may make some rookie mistakes. It will be a low-scoring game that the Dolphins find a way to win. Next up, back home against the reigning AFC East champion, Buffalo Bills. This will be a tough game for the Dolphins, despite it being at home, but the Dolphins’ offense won’t be able to keep up with the Bills.
September 26 @ Las Vegas (W)
October 3 vs Indianapolis (L)
October 10 @ Tampa Bay (L)
October 17 @ Jacksonville (London) (W)
This next stretch of games includes 3 of 4 on the road. One of which being in London. First, traveling to the west coast is never easy but the Dolphins took care of business last year in Las Vegas in a thriller. I expect a repeat of that outcome this year. Next up is the Colts who look a lot different this year with Carson Wentz at the helm. That along with a stout defense could present problems for the Fins. Going into the defending champs’ house will be a challenge. With the balance on both sides of the ball for the Bucs, I think the Fins find themselves in an early 2 game skid. On the road to London is always fun and this should be a win against #1 pick Trevor Lawrence and the rebuilding Jaguars.
October 24 vs Atlanta (W)
October 31 @ Buffalo (L)
November 7 vs Houston (W)
November 11 vs Baltimore (TNF) (W)
The Dolphins should bounce back during this portion of the season but nothing is a given. First up against the offensively fueled, Atlanta Falcons. Their offense should be able to be tamed and the Fins should be able to put up a bunch of points against a lackluster defense. As much as I would love to see the Dolphins split with the Bills, it is going to be even tougher to get the job done up in Buffalo. They should handle their business against the dumpster fire that is the Texans. Baltimore will be a huge test. Primetime television on TNF. The Ravens have suffered numerous injuries to their squad already so if the Dolphins can figure out how to neutralize Lamar Jackson and score some points against an always elite defense, they could be in a great position to pull off the upset at home.
November 21 @ New York Jets (L)
November 28 vs Carolina (W)
December 5 vs New York Giants (W)
These next several games are all very winnable. All 3 teams struggled in 2020, but we could see some signs of improvement in 2021. If Zach Wilson continues to perform the way he did in the preseason and Robert Saleh is the coach that everyone expects him to be, the Jets will not only be better in 2021 but could play spoiler late in the season. Then, against the Panthers, we don’t know which Sam Darnold we will be getting, but this Panthers defense is going to struggle all year and Tua and company should have no problem putting up a ton of points. Finally, another bout against a New York team that should have a better outcome. Daniel Jones is most likely not the answer and the Brian Flores-led defense should be able to wreak havoc.
TBD vs New York Jets (W)
December 27 @ New Orleans (MNF) (L)
January 2 @ Tennessee (W)
January 9 vs New England (W)
After the extremely late bye week, it’s another date against the divisional rival Jets back at home. After suffering a debilitating loss the first time around, they find a way to bounce back and improve their chances at a playoff spot. To get into the playoffs, it is going to be tough sledding, especially with the final 3 games. Although the New Orleans Saints are Drew Bress-less, they are still going to be well-coached. It is never easy to win in New Orleans which could present some challenges for the Fins. Onto another road matchup against the Titans who just got better on offense, but still lack on the defensive side. I think with the Dolphins playoff chances at stake, the team puts it all together and pulls this out on the road. Finally, just as it was in 2020, the Dolphins playoff chances may rest on their final game of the year. This year, they take care of business, sweep the season series against New England, and get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Final Record: 11-6
This Dolphins team continues to improve in the Brian Flores era with the team earning its first playoff berth under Flores. It is going to be very tough to compete with teams in the upper echelon of the AFC. It will definitely be possible to pull off a win in Super Wild Card Weekend, but that may be the ceiling for this Dolphins team in 2021. However, if this team continues to improve as a unit, the future is very bright. In the next several years, if all goes right, this team could be in the mix for a Super Bowl. Fins Up!