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2017 AFC East Outlook: Miami Dolphins

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One of Buffalo’s biggest rivals improved this offseason, but will it be enough to upend New England?

The games that the Buffalo Bills played against the Miami Dolphins in 2016 were two of the most frustrating football games I can remember watching in a long time. The Bills held a lead in the fourth quarter of each game, and in each game, the Bills lost by a field goal.

In the first match-up, Jarvis Landry ended Aaron Williams’s season (and nearly his career) with a crack-back block for which he was fined nearly $24,000. The Bills led 10-6 at halftime, and 17-6 with under a minute to go in the third quarter. They only gained one first down in the second half prior to a meaningless touchdown drive that made the final score (28-25) look far closer than it should have.

The second match-up was even more frustrating. After Tyrod Taylor threw a go-ahead touchdown pass with 80 seconds left in the game, the Dolphins made it to Buffalo’s 37 yard line. Kicker Andrew Franks nailed a 55 yard field goal as Rex Ryan tried in vain to call timeout. Dan Carpenter missed a 45-yard kick in overtime, and after trading punts, the Dolphins iced the Bills’ season with a field goal at the end of the extra period.

Jay Ajayi (who gained 13 of his rushing yardage for the season in the two contests) and the Dolphins made some gains in the offseason. Will they be enough to overcome the New England Patriots? In a word...no.

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Additions

David Fales QB (FA, Chicago)

Anthony Fasano TE (FA, Tennessee)

Julius Thomas TE (Trade, Jacksonville)

Ted Larson G (FA, Chicago)

Lawrence Timmons LB (FA, Pittsburgh)

Nate Allen FS (FA, Oakland)

T. J. McDonald SS (FA, Los Angeles Rams)

Charles Harris DE (Draft, Rd. 1, Missouri)

Raekwon McMillan LB (Draft, Rd. 2, Ohio State)

Cordrea Tankersley CB (Draft, Rd. 3, Clemson)

Isaac Asiata G (Draft, Rd. 5, Utah)

Davon Godchaux DT (Draft, Rd. 5, LSU)

Nate Gerry S (Draft, Rd. 5, Nebraska)

Vincent Taylor DT (Draft, Rd. 6, Oklahoma State)

Isaiah Ford WR (Draft, Rd. 7, Virginia Tech)

Miami almost exclusively drafted defensive players, only adding the very stout Asiata, and the underrated Ford to the offensive end. Harris, McMillan, Tankersley, and Godchaux are all talented enough to contribute right away. Although T.J. McDonald is suspended for the first half of the season, his addition is one that should help a great deal. Adding him to the lineup at season’s end will be a big boost to what should be a fairly solid defensive unit.

If healthy, Julius Thomas is an excellent mid-range target for Ryan Tannehill. He also has the ability to stretch the seams.

Subtractions

T. J. Yates QB (Buffalo)

Dion Sims TE (Chicago)

Earl Mitchell DT (San Francisco)

Dion Jordan DE (Seattle)

Jelani Jenkins LB (Oakland)

Spencer Paysinger LB (New York Jets)

Mario Williams DE (unsigned)

Jordan Cameron TE (unsigned)

Isa Abdul-Quddus FS (unsigned)

Donald Butler LB (unsigned)

Dominique Jones TE (unsigned)

Bacarri Rambo S (unsigned)

Daniel Davie CB (unsigned)

The team didn’t lose much in terms of free-agent departures, shedding the over-drafted Dion Jordan and the under-performing Mario Williams from last year’s defensive unit. Trading out underwhelming Dion Sims for solid veteran Anthony Fasano at tight end is at worst a push, and at best an addition in the leadership realm that should help the club.

Schedule/SoS

6th (140-116; .547)

Link to 2017 Schedule

The Dolphins have a rough go of it based on 2016 records. Their last six games feature only four opponents (New England and Buffalo twice, home against the Denver Broncos and a date at Arrowhead to face the Kansas City Chiefs).

2016 Record

10-6, lost wild card game to Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 Outlook/Projection

Football Outsiders has the Dolphins backtracking to 7-9 this season. According to their DVOA metric, the ‘Phins also have the most difficult schedule in the division, ranking 18th. Miami was 8-2 in one-score games last season, which suggests a bit of luck. They were -17 on the year in point differential, and return largely the same core group of players. Some regression is probable.