Every year, Miami Dolphins fans find themselves swimming in wonderment, questioning whether their team will be good, bad, or just plain ugly. While the NFL is filled with teams that need little speculation – teams that are routinely playoff bound or teams that are a shoe in for a good draft pick – Miami isn't one of them. Perpetually hovering around the .500 mark, with a few good seasons and bad seasons peppered in, the Dolphins are a team that can go either way: towards a winning season or into the dark cracks of failure.
This year, however, could be different. As Dante Culpepper's career takes a metaphorical and literal knee, Trent Green looks to be the new starting quarterback, one who can hopefully "fin"ish the season with more wins than losses.
The following is the Dolphins' 2007 schedule, and a breakdown of their opponents.
Sept 9th @ Washington Redskins: With a 5-11 record under their belts last year, the Redskins looked to revamp their entire team during the 2007 off season. But, they didn't revamp it enough. Washington should see another bad year, making them wonder if Doug Williams should restart at quarterback.
Sept 16th Dallas Cowboys: Dallas was a game above mediocrity with a 9-7 record last season. After a devastating loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs (laces out, Tony Romo), the stability of the Cowboys lies solely in how their quarterback — who ended last year on a sour note "holding" the ball for a field goal — will react. He will either bounce back, or fall further. If he plays well, Dallas could be a hard team to beat.
Sept 23rd @ New York Jets: The Jets just about have all of their ducks in a row: they are almost ready for takeoff. After making nice additions on defense, and signing Thomas Jones at running back, this team will be better than they were last year. With a 10-6 2006 record, being better will make them a force to be reckoned with.
Sept 30th Oakland Raiders: Remember when the Oakland Raiders made it to the Super Bowl in 2002? Yeah, neither do we. A team that has fallen far, far, and farther, they really have nowhere to go but up from their 2-14 last season record. If JaMarcus Russell is as good a quarterback as they are hoping, Oakland could be decent, but don't expect miracles: since their Super Bowl appearance, they have made a disappearance, finishing way under .500 for the past four seasons.
October 7th @ Houston Texans: At 6-10 last season, the Houston Texans weren't as bad as they could have been: perpetual underdogs, they found a way to win games they shouldn't have won. Still, their decision to release David Carr will come back to haunt them, and it will make them realize that Carr wasn't to blame: it's hard to be a good quarterback when you have zero help on offense.
October 14th @ Cleveland Browns: A team with a horrible 4-12 last season record, the Cleveland Browns are anxious to get the Brady Quinn era underway. This is a young team: they probably won't make many waves this season, but don't be surprised to see them turn some heads in the years to come.
October 21st New England Patriots: After finishing 12-4 last season, and receiving a devastating loss to the Colt's in the "real Super Bowl," the Patriots are hungry for redemption, and another championship. They won't go undefeated, but they will get to the playoffs; they always do.
October 28th New York Giants (in London): A team that finished at .500 last season, it's about time for Eli to start carrying on the Manning name. Genetically destined for greatness, Manning is the X-factor: if he plays well, the Giants will be good; if he plays poorly, the Giants will be watching the playoffs from their living room couch.
November 11th Buffalo Bills: Just like the Giants, the Buffalo Bills are also in the hands of their quarterback. After a 7-9 season last year, the Bills look to improve with an improving JP Losman. A quarterback that seemed to come of age in the last half of the 2006 season, if he continues to get better, the Bills will finish about .500. The new additions on the offensive line should help booster Losman's protection and his confidence.
November 18th @ Philadelphia Eagles: Finishing at a good 10-6 last season, the Eagles could be one of the teams to beat in the NFC this year. If Donovan McNabb reclaims his starting position, and stays healthy, the Eagles should be soaring high. If he doesn't, then the Eagles could end up looking more like canaries.
November 26th @ Pittsburgh Steelers: After winning Super Bowl XL, a Super Bowl that left fans wondering if the refs could in fact see, Pittsburgh found itself staring down the barrel of mediocrity. It's hard to say what went wrong: perhaps the loss of Jerome Bettis hurt or maybe the source of Ben Roethlisberger's power was in his appendix. Whatever went wrong, this season, with a new head coach, might not be full of that much improvement.
December 2nd New York Jets: See above.
December 9th @ Buffalo Bills: See above.
December 16th Baltimore Ravens: A team that finished 13-3 last season, it's a safe bet that Baltimore will once again be at the top of their class. With a defense that is always good, it will be hard for opponents to score. However, Steve McNair at quarterback isn't exactly a spring chicken; if his play starts to falter, the Ravens may find their winning ways to be never more.
December 23rd @ New England Patriots: See above.
December 30th Cincinnati Bengals: The Cincinnati Bengals were better than their 8-8 record last season. As Carson Palmer continues to heal from injury, they should at least make the playoffs. This is, of course, contingent on whether or not the Bengals can keep from blowing huge leads, and keep from losing games they should really be winning.
So, there you have it: Miami's schedule is filled with teams they should beat and teams that should beat them. But, shoulda, woulda, coulda means nothing: it will all come down to whether or not Cam Cameron can get his team, and his quarterback, to jell. But, for kicks, I will go ahead and make this prediction: Miami will finish 9-7, and make the playoffs as a wild card. Call your bookies now.