This is one of seven games that I have highlighted this season. Really, every game is important but the season opener against the Tennessee Titans will be foretelling. The Dolphins lead the series all time 20-17. The Titans made the playoffs last year; their first time in 9 seasons. But, I think they are going to take a step back this year in 2018. They have a new head coach running the show and it is someone, Dolphin fans should be very familiar with. Longtime, New England Patriot great, Mike Vrabel. I felt their offseason for the most part was pretty uneventful. They only had 4 draft picks of which my initial grade for their 2018 draft is a “D”. On paper, it looks like the Dolphins are the better team, but several things need to happen in order for the Dolphins to be successful on Sunday.
TANNEHILL HAS TO ESTABLISH HIMSELF AS THE LEADER. This might be QB Ryan Tannehill’s last shot in Miami if the Dolphins don’t make the playoffs this season. I know football is a team sport but at some point, the win-loss ratio does fall on the QB and Tannehill has never been able to do better than 8-8 during his time here. It’s a tall task for a player who is coming off a torn ACL and hasn’t played a game in over a year. But, the front office revamped the interior o-line, drafted some long-term security blankets for him (RB Ballage and TE Gesicki) not to mention some short-term options in WRs Wilson and Amendola. The pieces are there for him to be successful, he just needs to go out there and do it.
ESTABLISH A RUNNING GAME. This is one area that I don’t see the Dolphins having a problem with. The front office did a nice job bringing in a veteran RB and drafting another RB to complement the still young and very possibly future pro-bowler Kenyan Drake. I fully expect all 3 of these guys to suit up and get plenty of reps on Sunday. It was also help take pressure off QB Tannehill.
GET THE BALL IN THE ENDZONE. The Dolphins were 19th last season in red zone scoring. That has got to change if the Dolphins hope to make a return to the playoffs this season. The excuses are over! The Dolphins spent 2 draft picks on the TE position. Plus, Gray and Derby. Rookie TE Mike Gesicki should become Ryan Tannehill’s new favorite target.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE. As I said before, the interior got remade this offseason. I like the signing of G Josh Sitton even though he is a big on the aging side. Jesse Davis did well for us last year when he got his opportunities, but you don’t know if he can duplicate that performance. You hope he can but as we are finding out with CB Tankersley that is never a sure thing. New starting C Daniel Kilgore is the puzzle. Admittedly, I don’t know that much about him. But, I soon, will. So, there are still some unknowns. If this semi-new o-line can keep the opposing defense under 2 sacks a game, then I say it is doing its job.
STOP THE RUN. It might very well come down to this. Whoever, stops the run, wins the ball game. Both teams have playmakers in the backfield and it will be interesting who strikes first.
BUT, I AM NOT COUNTING OUT SPECIAL TEAMS. I love our special team’s coordinator Darren Rizzi. He has been with the Miami Dolphins since the Sparano era. I am actually predicting a close match-up. You hate to put it in the hands of your kicker. But, it just might. If it does, hold your breath!
MY FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: 28-21 Dolphins WIN. Dolphins have home field advantage. Titans are breaking in a new head coach who is obviously going to go through some growing pains in his debut. As I mentioned in the past, I don’t think the Titans offseason was that good. It will be a competitive game. It could be a nail-biter. I just think there is too much pressure on Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase this season to screw this up.