May 18, 2024
Austin, Texas, USA
Sports

Could 2024 be the Year The Miami Dolphins Finally Win a Playoff Game?

Playoff Game

Being a Miami Dolphins fan can be challenging. Few teams in the National Football League (NFL) show green shoots of promise only to fail to deliver when it matters more than the boys who play out of the Hard Rock Stadium. Dolphins fans last experienced the excitement of seeing their team at the Super Bowl in 1984, when they, you guessed it, lost to the San Francisco 49ers.

Dan Marino was the Dolphins’ starting quarterback, and the legendary Don Shula was the head coach in those days, which shows how long fans of the Dolphins have waited for their chance at football glory. These days, Mike McDaniel is the man with the clipboard calling the shots from the sidelines. The Dolphins have vastly improved under the former 49ers offensive coordinator, so much so that the betting sites in Florida are packed with people full of optimism for the upcoming NFL season. Is that optimism misplaced? Let’s find out.

A Quick Confession

Before we delve into the Dolphins’ chances of glory, I confess: I am one of the many long-suffering Dolphins supporters. I may be based in the United Kingdom and have never seen my team in person, but I watch from afar when broadcasts allow and have done so since the early 1990s.

Midway through a school term, when I was 11-12, a new boy named Paul joined our class. Paul and his family had moved to the UK from Buffalo, and he introduced his new classmates to American Football. I loved it from the moment I threw my first ball, so I had to choose a team to get behind. Not wanting to be accused of being a glory supporter by choosing the best NFL team, I opted for the Dolphins because, like my soccer team, they had a storied history and had enjoyed some success but were mediocre at the time. My love affair with the Dolphins started right there and then. Now that I’ve confessed my sins let’s look at the Dolphins’ chances of making a name for themselves during the 2024 NFL season.

The 2023 Miami Dolphins Season

Having seen their team finish 9-8 in 2022, including impressive victories over the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills, Dolphins fans were looking forward to the 2023 campaign. Many Dolphins fans and football experts believed the 2022 Dolphins would have progressed to the playoffs had it not been for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa missing four games through injury.

The Dolphins got the 2023 regular season off to a flying start with three consecutive wins. One of those victories, a 70-20 demolition of the Denver Broncos, was one of the NFL’s highest-scoring games of all time. Tagovailao was brimming with confidence. The offense looked dangerous, the defense was holding up well, and everything was rosy in Miami.

By the end of the 17-game regular season, the Dolphins finished with an 11-6 record, an improvement on their 9-8 record from 2022. However, among that progress was something that worried eagle-eyed Dolphins supporters: five of the team’s six losses came against opponents who made it to the playoffs. The Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills twice, the Philadelphia Eagles, eventual champions Kanas City Chiefs, and the Baltimore Ravens. You must beat the best teams to progress to the Super Bowl, and the Dolphins had shown they couldn’t do that.

Failing in the Playoffs Again

Although the Dolphins reached the playoffs for the second year straight, the supporters’ early-season optimism had drained. The all-conquering Kansas City Chiefs awaited McDaniel’s men in the Wild Card round. If that wasn’t bad enough, one must go back to 2000 to find the last time the Dolphins won a postseason football game.

Of course, the Chiefs made light work of the Dolphins, running out 26-7 winners in Arctic conditions in Missouri. The Dolphins had faltered in the playoffs again, back to the drawing board for McDaniel and his coaching staff.

What Do The Dolphins Need to Mount a Super Bowl Charge in 2024?

When McDaniel has a full roster to choose from, the Dolphins can hold their own against any team in the NFL. However, the Dolphins’ best players have a habit of missing key games or being knocked off their stride by injuries. It happened to Tagovailoa in 2022, and rookie running back Devon Achane could have set some NFL records before injuries robbed the Dolphins of his presence in six games.

Offensively, the Dolphins led the league in terms of total yards, yards per game, and passing yards. They were sixth in the league in terms of rushing yards and second only to the Dallas Cowboys in points scored.

There is not much McDaniel will want to change on his offense, although he may be looking out for another wide receiver or tight end to give Tagovailoa more options. Tyreek Hill was WR1 last season, and Tagovailo tried to find him 171 times. Jaylen Waddle was targeted 104 times, with Durham Smith the third most popular, with only 43 attempted passes. Stop Hill and Waddle, and you will bring the Dolphins’ passing game crashing down.

Defensively, the Dolphins finished 10th in the league for allowed yards per game but 15th in passing yards allowed. They were seventh in rushing yards allowed but 22nd in points against, averaging 23 points per game. Allowing so many points puts additional pressure on the offense because, in the Dolphins’ case, they have to score three touchdowns and a field goal to make up for that deficiency. That is a tall ask against the better NFL franchises.

Unlike previous seasons, the Dolphins’ roster does not need a significant overhaul; it needs more gentle tweaking here and there. A couple of new additions and some mental game training for when the business end of the season is upon them, and the Dolphins could be the surprise package in 2024. Unfortunately for me, that could mean staying up until the early morning hours each Sunday to watch the famous aqua, orange, and blue uniforms dazzle on my screen. Go Phins!

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