The Miami Dolphins should make the playoffs in 2018

Introduction

There is a prevailing notion among NFL oddsmakers that the Miami Dolphins are going to miss the playoffs in 2018. In fact, according to oddsshark.com, the team is projected to win 6.5 games this season. However, one can argue that the organization’s rededication to the running game should propel them into the playoffs.

  Miami Dolphins (Week 1-5 of 2016)

The Miami Dolphins started the 2016 campaign with a record of 1-4 because they were trying to make Ryan Tannehill the focal point of the offense. This is because the organization wanted to prove that Tannehill’s contract extension signed in 2015 wasn’t a mistake. Therefore Ryan was allowed to pass the ball 31.2 times a game over the first five weeks.

Ryan Tannehill spent the majority of the team’s offensive possessions in shotgun formation last season. In fact, according to pro-football-reference Tannehill made 78.6 % of his throws from shotgun formation. Once the football was snapped, he dropped back 1-3 steps in the pocket and threw it quickly to a comeback, crossing, curl or out route. The strategy would increase the likelihood of a quick drive occurring as it opened the door for a quick touchdown, 3 and out or turnover.

As a consequence of this, the defense was forced to go back on the field without the proper amount of rest. Which led to the unit giving up more yards and points late in games because they were not able to regain some energy between possessions to be able to stop the opposing offense. Over the first five games, the defense spent 35 minutes and 56 seconds on the field.

Miami Dolphins ( After Week 5 of 2016)

After the 5th game, the organization began to reduce Ryan Tannehill’s role in the offense and decided to implement more of the running game. Ryan went on to average 2.1 fewer passes per game for the rest of the season. Conversely, the running back group saw a significant increase in their carries as they went from 18.2 to 25.1 per game.

A prime example of this was during the first two downs of a series, Ryan Tannehill would hand the ball off to Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins wanted to accomplish two goals with the strategy to force the opposing team to stack the box and set up a manageable third down.

If the strategy was successful, the Dolphins called a play action pass where Ryan would fake the handoff and go in the opposite direction to throw the ball to the flat or the crossing route fifteen yards downfield. However, on occasion, Ryan would fake the handoff to freeze the defense momentarily which allowed the receivers to get some separation as they try to complete a slant, in or out route.

The midseason change in philosophy significantly reduced the amount of time the defensive unit spent on the field as they went from 35 minutes and 56 seconds to 31 minutes and 33 seconds. After the change, the organization compiled a record of 9-2 which allowed them to finish 10-6 and capture a wild card spot.

Miami Dolphins ( 2017)

Unfortunately, the Miami Dolphins didn’t carry the philosophy into the 2017 season as they reverted to early 2016 form. Jay Cutler was allowed to pass the ball 32.8 times a game in 13 games. This played a significant role in the defense having to be on the field for 30 minutes and 36 seconds and the team compiling a 6-10 record.

Miami Dolphins ( 2018)

Fortunately, the Miami Dolphins organization has hinted that he wants the running game to be a focal point of the offense again. Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is excited about Kenyan Drake’s skill set stating that:

” if you had three Kenyan Drakes, you’d be really excited because he’s a guy that can play all three downs.”

The Denver Broncos should make the playoffs in 2018

The Denver Broncos upgrade at quarterback should allow them to improve their win total and make the playoffs.

Introduction

There is a prevailing notion among NFL oddsmakers that the Denver Broncos are going to miss the playoffs in 2018. In fact, according to oddsshark.com, the team is projected to win seven games this season. However, one can argue that the acquisition of Case Keenum is the final piece needed for them to make the playoffs.

Denver Broncos 2017

Members of the Denver Broncos organization stated before last season that they wanted the running game to be a staple of their offensive system. Head coach Vance Joseph noted during the league meetings that:

“C.J. (Anderson) is very capable. Even (Devontae) Booker in the last month of the season showed what he can do. So we have two backs that will run downhill but we’ve got to block better up front, and we will.”

The organization was able to follow through on their desires to run the ball as they averaged 28 rush attempts per game at 4.1 yards a carry. The positive results generated from the running game played a significant role in Denver having a firm grip on the time of possession. The Broncos were 6th in time of possession spending 31:28 minutes on the field.

Despite spending over half the game on the field, the offense was unable to score points as they were 26th in this category averaging 18.1 points per game. The Broncos inability to score can be directly tied to their poor quarterback play.

Trevor Sieman and Brock Osweiler completed less than 60% of their passes in a combined 14 starts last season. The lack of accuracy played a crucial role in Denver only accumulating 19 passing touchdowns.

Denver Broncos 2018

The subpar quarterback play led the Denver Broncos to sign Case Keenum to a 2-year contract worth $36 million this off-season. Case helped the Minnesota Vikings reach the NFC Championship Game by completing 67.6% of his passes and throwing 22 passing touchdowns.

The Denver Broncos upgrade at quarterback should allow them to improve their win total and make the playoffs. This is because they only got outscored by an average of 5.2 points per game last season.

The Tennessee Titans Should Make The Playoffs In 2017

Throughout the 2016 season, the Tennessee Titans decided to implement an offensive system that was centered around the running game and the play-action passing game. For instance, during the first two downs of a series, Marcus Mariota would hand the ball off to Demarco Murray or Derrick Henry in an attempt to force the opposing team to stack the box and set up a manageable third down. If the strategy is successful, the Titans would call a play action pass where Marcus would fake the handoff and go in the opposite direction to throw the ball to the flat or the corner route five to ten yards down field. However, on occasion, Marcus would fake the handoff to freeze the defense momentarily that allowed the receivers to get some separation as they try to complete a slant, in or out route. As a result of this, the Titans offense can stay on the field for a longer period, which means that the opposing team had less time to feast on their defense. In fact, according to teamrankings.com, the Titans offense was on the field for an average of “30:31” thus the defense was on the field for 29:29. This strategy helped the team attain its first winning season since 2011 as they went 9-7.
Due to the overwhelming success of last season, I expect the team to implement a similar offensive system with one minor tweak this season. The team has an opportunity to let Demarco Murray go after the season without affecting their future cap space. According to pro football talk, Murray signed a “revised four-year deal” that “has a base value of $25.5 million, with $12.5 million guaranteed” before last season. The guaranteed portion of the contract was split between 2016 and 2017 as he was given $6 million last year and the rest this year. As a result, the team will most likely increase the number of carries given to Derrick Henry to see if he’s capable of being a number one running back. If he can, they will release Murray and use the remaining money in other areas but if he struggles Murray stays.
Even though, Demarco Murray is probably going to see less action early in the season due to the evaluation of Derrick Henry, it shouldn’t have a big impact on the team’s success.

The New Orleans Saints Should Make The Playoffs In 2017

Throughout 2016 season, the New Orleans Saints would consistently stray away from the game plan that they established early on in games. For instance, Drew Brees would hand the ball off to the running back, and if they gained 5 or more yards on the play, he would repeat the process during the next play. But if they didn’t, he would throw the ball to a receiver on a slant, curl, out,  crossing routes or to the flat. The conservative strategy was an attempt to force the opposing team to stack the box which would hopefully give Brees man coverage down field. However, once the team accomplished the goal, they would abandon the running back and focus on the passing game. For example,  Brees would throw the ball to a receiver on a seam or corner route as well as continue to implement the short passing game. Due to the abandonment of the running game, the offense spent less time on the field because of incompletions, interceptions, sacks or big plays that result in drives being cut short. As a consequence of this change in strategy, the offense gave the opposing team more opportunities to score on a defense; that couldn’t get around their blockers to generate pressure on the quarterback. Consequently, quarterbacks had ample time to analyze the defense and make the correct throw. In fact, according to teamrankings.com, the Saints offense was on the field for an average of “30:56” thus the defense was on the field for 29:04.

New Orleans Saints at New York Giants – Sep 18, 2016

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons – Jan 1, 2017

However, I expect the team to make a significant change to the offensive system this season due to the presence of Adrian Peterson. According to pro football reference, Adrian Peterson has amassed 11,747 rushing yards over a 10 year NFL career which currently places him 16th on the all-time rushing yards list. Due to this, the team should implement an offensive system that is centered around the running game and the play-action passing game. For instance, during the first two downs of a series, Drew Brees would hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara in an attempt to force the opposing team to stack the box and set up a manageable third down. If the strategy is successful, the Saints would call a play action pass where Drew would fake the handoff and go in the opposite direction to throw the ball to the flat or the corner route five to ten yards down field. However, on occasion, Drew would fake the handoff to freeze the defense momentarily that allowed the receivers to get some separation as they try to complete a slant, in or out route. As a result of this, the Saints offense can stay on the field for a longer period, which means that the opposing team had less time to feast on their defense.

If this strategy goes according to plan, it should reduce the amount of time the defense spends on the field. As a result, it should lead them towards capturing a playoff spot in the NFC.

10/10/17 update: According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, “The New Orleans Saints have traded Adrian Peterson to the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional pick.” Although I previously stated that Adrian Peterson’s presence would force the team to run the ball, he didn’t have an impact on the Saints’ running game. According to Pro Football Reference, he carried the ball 27 times for 81 yards over four games.