When the Miami Dolphins started their rebuild at the beginning of last season, I don’t think any Dolphins fans in their wildest dreams anticipated their team would be in the position they are today. Can the Dolphins win the AFC East this season?

Many predicted that the Dolphins would go 0-16 last season and be one of the worst teams in NFL history. Instead the Dolphins won 5 games, developed some really nice young players like Preston Williams. They still acquired their Quarterback of the future in Tua Tagovailoa. They revamped their offensive line. Re-did their running back room, added major players during free agency on defense, in Byron Jones and Kyle Van Noy just to name a few and head coach Brian Flores seems to be the real deal. Now with Tom Brady opting to leave the New England Patriots in favor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it appears that the 20-year dominance the Patriots have had over the AFC East is effectively over. This begs the question, we know the Dolphins are well-positioned to potentially dominate the AFC East in the future, but what about now? 

I spent the last week or so trying to answer that question. It comes down to two variables: how will the other teams in the division perform, and who will be the starting quarterback for the Dolphins this year. 

Let’s talk about those other teams, starting with the former division winners, the New England Patriots. As I mentioned before, the Patriots have dominated this division of the better part of 20 years. Now with Tom Brady gone it appears that the reign of terror is over. Many members of the national media believed the “Patriot Machine” will keep going and the Patriots will once again win the AFC East. But I don’t buy it. After ending the season last year extremely poorly the Patriots did not get better in a single area this offseason while losing their hall of fame quarterback. Not to mention they have the league’s toughest schedule. I know Bill Belichick has won with other QBs in the past like Jimmy Garoppolo, but Jarrett Stidham is no Jimmy G. Bill Belichick went to bat for Jimmy G and even wanted to trade Brady and start Jimmy G a few years ago. I don’t see that same love being sent to Jarrett Stidham’s way. The Dolphins should finish higher in the standings than the Patriots this year and that’s my expectation. 

Next, up is the Jets, who had an average year last year going, 7-9. Their main concerns going into this offseason was corner and receiver and they addressed both, they drafted tackle Mekhi Becton, and wide receiver Denzel Mims. While I like both of those additions, they could and should have done more in my opinion. They lost arguably their best receiver last year in Robby Anderson as well to the Panthers in free agency. Sam Darnold is their quarterback and while I am higher on him than most, he is still very inconsistent and turnover prone. My main problem for the Jets though? Their head coach Adam Gase. He’s not a good coach, in fact, he’s a bad one and the worst coach in this division. He was obviously the Dolphins head coach before being hired by the Jets, and we all know how well he did here in Miami. I expect a similar year to last year for Jets this year, they should fall in that 6-10, 9-7 range. I could really see, and I’m almost expecting that the Dolphins will be better than the Jets this year. 

Finally, there are the Buffalo Bills who were a bit of a surprise team last year. They went 10-6 behind a great defense. While they had success last year I don’t think it’s sustainable. Some have pegged their Quarterback Josh Allen as a potential MVP candidate this year but I think the opposite. Allen is statistically the least accurate Quarterback in the NFL. In an accuracy driven league, that’s absolutely horrible, and in my opinion you cannot win constantly with a Quarterback like that. The Bills are their favorite to win this division, as they should be because of their excellent defense and coaching staff, but they are in no way guaranteed to win it. 

Now let’s get to the Dolphins. Do they have the roster talent to win the division? Yes. Do they have the coaching staff to win this division? Absolutely. So what’s holding them back? There starting Quarterback. If Ryan Fitzpatrick starts all 16 games for the Dolphins this year it’s hard for me to imagine the Dolphins winning the division. Ryan Fitzpatrick his entire career has been extremely inconsistent and I don’t see that changing. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm I could see the Dolphins going 8-8. Now… if rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is at the helm, that could change everything. Tua is a special player, with special accuracy when throwing the ball, which translates to wins in the NFL. If Tua ends up taking the helm week 1 I could definitely see this Dolphins team winning 10 games and winning this division. Week 1 can’t get here soon enough. 

  • Alex Masferrer (Twitter: alexmasferrer33)