The Miami Dolphins signed the top free-agent offensive lineman on the free-agent market Terron Armstead last week. They acquired star wide receiver Tyreek Hill in a blockbuster trade. Both moves generated a lot of buzz and excitement within the fan base and even some experts to a degree. Some fans and some media members believe these moves make the Dolphins contenders in the AFC. That’s where I say we have to pump the brakes on that talk. Call me a negative fan, a buzzkill, or a traumatized fan from the team roller coaster ride of the last two decades, in which the team hasn’t done anything. But become a contender? It’s nice putting a team together on paper, but at the end of the day, the Dolphins have to put it together on the field, and they haven’t done that since the Dan Marino days.  

Yes, the Dolphins have tried and done a lot to sell the team, like signing big-name free agents, but everything this team has done in the last two decades has failed. The Dolphins traded for star running back Ricky Williams in 2002 and while he put together two great seasons, the team was unable to make the playoffs and then he abruptly retired to go off and smoke marijuana. The Dolphins chose not to sign quarterback Drew Brees because he failed his physical with six doctors on his repaired shoulder and the Dolphins chose Daunte Culpepper, who was coming off a bad knee injury. We all know how that went and Nick Saban bailed on the team within a year to go to Alabama. The Dolphins tried to sell the fan base on Ryan Tannehill as the next franchise quarterback and it was painfully obvious, he wasn’t for 7 years. Mike Wallace was supposed to be the dynamic receiver the Dolphins needed in 2013, but we found out the hard way that he wasn’t a number one receiver and just another guy. Ndamukong Suh was supposed to transform the defense in 2015, but he was an overrated player that couldn’t take over a game and the defense crumbled with him. Will the signing of Hill be different? Maybe, but I’m not counting on it until I see it on the field. 

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The Dolphins aren’t the best team in the AFC East. That distinction goes to the Buffalo Bills, who have won back-to-back AFC East titles. The Bills have been close to the Super Bowl the last two years. Living up here in Central New York, some of their fans will say if they didn’t choke in the last 13 seconds against the Kansas City Chiefs would have gone on to the Super Bowl and won it. The Bills have proven they are the best team in the division. They aren’t perfect as many media pundits will make them out to be. They won the division last year because the New England Patriots choked it away the final 4 weeks of the season. The fact is the Dolphins haven’t beat the Bills in over 3 years and lost 7 games in a row. Many will remind us the last time we beat the Bills is because Charles Clay dropped a pass in the end zone that would have won them the game in 2018; if that pass was caught, then we’re talking of not beating them since 2016. The Dolphins were supposed to contend with them this year, but got beat badly in week 2 losing 35-0 on their own home field. They played better in the rematch in Buffalo, but their offense couldn’t muster anything and they lost 26-11. The point is the Bills have the Dolphins number and until they beat them, you can’t say we are contenders.  

The one area the Bills are head and shoulders above the Dolphins is at the quarterback position, where Josh Allen has ascended himself as a franchise quarterback and star of the NFL. The Bills have a good defense and were statistically ranked number 1 in the entire league last year. They got even stronger this offseason with the addition of Von Miller and the expectation is the addition will help the Bills get over the hump. The Bills have a big-play offense with star receiver Stefon Diggs. The Bills aren’t a perfect team by any stretch. They don’t run the ball well and they struggle defensively to stop the run, but they are still the best team in the AFC East. Sure, the Patriots beat them in Buffalo last year in the first meeting in early December, but the Bills crushed them in the rematch in Foxborough and in the wild card game in which the Bills didn’t even punt the ball once in either game. The Dolphins are the second-best team in the division based on how they have beat the Patriots and New York Jets over the years, but can’t beat the Bills. 

The Dolphins have also struggled against some of the better teams in the AFC. In December this year with the playoffs on the line against the Tennessee Titans, the Dolphins were a complete no show and lost 34-3. The Dolphins also couldn’t close the deal in games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts. Sure, the Dolphins beat the Baltimore Ravens, but they got hit by the injury bug this year to key players at critical positions, including quarterback, and didn’t make the playoffs. The Dolphins have been inferior opponents over the last couple of years, such as the Houston Texans, the Jets, and New York Giants, but haven’t been able to beat any of the true playoff teams, so I’m not ready to make them contenders at this time. 

There is a lot of time between now and when the season starts. The Dolphins have made the moves to make them a better football, but they have to prove it on the field. The AFC is a tough conference with the Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, and Cincinnati Bengals; wow, let that set in, the Dolphins have to prove they can beat more than inferior opponents and over the last few years, I haven’t seen it. Every few years, the Dolphins make big moves in March with hopes to sell the fans they are a better team and then when the season rolls around, we get our hopes up as the team crumbles. I want to see it on the field and not talk about it in March because talk is cheap; prove it on the field that this team is a contender.