Miami Dolphins- Miami started the 2010 campaign with a bang going 2-0 against division rival Buffalo Bills and the Minnesota Vikings. The defense looked sharp giving up only 10 points in both games and had a huge stand on 4th and goal against the Vikings in Minnesota to win the game. The two games that followed changed the landscape for the Dolphins season and I think showed us who the Dolphins really are.
The Jets came to town and everyone was buzzing about a defensive battle. Both teams scored over 21 points, 31 for the Jets, and the Dolphins finally opened up their playbook and looked to throw the ball. Marshall exploded for 10 catches 166 yards and a score, while Henne threw the ball 44 times for 363 yards and 3 TDs. Davone Bess and Brian Hartline got in the mix as well with 6 and 5 catches respectively. Bess went for 86 yards and Hartline went for 84. I like this offense for the Dolphins much better as teams will not be able to stack the box against Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams who have split the season pretty evenly with Brown taking 48 carries for 226 yards and the only Dolphins score on the ground. Williams has 43 carries for 176 yards. I also like the pass first offense better for the Dolphins as their main priority should be keeping Brandon Marshall happy. As we just saw in New England, unhappy stars cause problems.
The following week the Dolphins hosted the New England Patriots and this one got ugly as soon as the second half started. The first half played to a 7-6 Dolphins lead as Davone Bess caught a TD pass from Henne in the first quarter. But a different Patriots team came out of the locker room to start the second half, as rookie Ben Tate took the kickoff 103 yards for a score. Dolphins than have their punt blocked, a FG Blocked and and INT returned for a TD all by Patrick Chung. Final Score 41-14. Dolphins fire Special Team coach.
The Dolphins want to be a running team, but the wildcat is getting old and they have to much talent in Marshall, Bess and Hartline to not throw the ball. The defense will be there and give them a chance to win each week, but their schedule is so tough!
Next 3 Weeks (0-3)
@ Packers - Packers are just too strong of a team for the Dolphins to beat. Easy win for the Packers.
vs Steelers - Same story, the Steelers are just the better team and Steelers fans travel well. Steelers win.
@ Benglas - This game will be a close one to the end, but the Home Field Advantage wins the game for the Bengals.
I really do want to see the Dolphins win and challenge the Jets and Pats for the division. They just are not ready for it yet. But another good first round draft pick should help. Their schedule still includes @ Ravens, vs Titans, vs Bears, vs Browns, @ Jets, and @ Patriots. By week 9 they could be 2-6. The best finish i see for them is 8-8.
Pittsburgh Steelers - First Big Ben gets suspended, then Leftwich goes down, then Dixon goes down, and in comes Charlie Batch. At 3 - 1, the Steelers are lucky. But that is not the point, good teams get the lucky bounce. The Steelers defense is tops in the league and defense wins championships. They have yet to allow more than 14 points in a game and Lawrence Timmons is making his pitch for Defensive Player of the Year, with 48 Tackles in 4 games.
Six of their sacks have come on first down and that sets you up for three and outs as most teams run on second and long to create a shorter 3rd down attempt. Problem is that the Steelers do not give up any yards on the ground. Teams are averaging less than 60 yards a game on the ground against Pitt. They have faced Michael Turner, and Chris Johnson and held them to 42 and 34 yards respectively.
The return of Big Ben is huge for the team. It allows them to use Mike Wallace as a deep threat, and open the field for Mendenhall who is already averaging 4.6 yards a carry. Fantasy Owners should try to steal Wallace on their bye week as teams will be looking to replace him this week. Hines Ward is also another great chip to acquire on the cheap during the bye week.
Next 3 Games(2-1)
vs Browns - Big Ben's first game back is at home and against a stingy defense. Mendenhall wins the game with a late rushing TD and Steelers are 1-0 under Roethlisberger in 2010.
@ Dolphins - With Roethlisberger back in action, the Steelers air it out against the Dolphins young secondary and the defense contains the wildcat. 2-0 with Roethlisberger.
@ Saints - The noisy Superdome gets to the Steelers and the Saints are the first team to score more than 14 points against the Steelers this season. 2-1 with Roethlisberger
Good thing the Steelers won 3 games without Big Ben. They do not have many tough road games ahead, just @ Cincy and Baltimore, but they host the Patriots, the Jets, and the Bengals and those will all be tough games to win.
New England Patriots - The Patriots have started the 2010 season with an impressive 3-1 start. They dominated the Bengals in the season opener, and the best part was that Wes Welker coming off an injury was up to full speed scoring 2 TDs. They then went on to lose a tough game to the Jets, but picked it back up with a high scoring game with the Bills and a great all around team game against the Dolphins, in which they scored on the ground, through the air, off a blocked field goal, a kick return, a pick 6 and also blocked a punt.
Tom Brady has looked like the old Tom Brady, with 9 TDs and 2 INTs (both in the loss to Jets) completing 70% of his passes. He has connected well with Wes Welker as expected but really has created a chemistry with rookie TE Aaron Hernandez. His job will be a lot tougher now since the Patriots traded Randy Moss to the Vikings for a 3rd round pick, now they have 2 picks in each of the first 4 rounds of the 2011 draft. Brady does not really have a deep threat anymore with the loss of Moss, but will have to make it work with Welker, Hernandez, Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Rumors have it that the Pats are in pursuit of Seahawks wide receiver Dieon Branch who once was a threat with Brady a few years back.
The Patriots run game has been a huge question mark even before the year started. They came into the year with no real starter, but a bunch of guys to choose from, Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Benjarvis Green-Ellis, and Sammy Morris. Its pretty clear now who the main guy is, after they traded Maroney to the Broncos, and Kevin Faulk is out for the year. Fred Taylor has been banged up as well and has cost him to miss time. As of now Green-Ellis is the main back and has been prodcutive with Sammy Morris seeing a few touches a game, and they also signed Danny Woodhead the ex Jet who has done good things since joining the Pats (12 touches in 2 games, 89 yards, 2 TDs).
It'll be interesting to see how the Pats go from here with their pass game once their out of their BYE with the loss of Moss.
Next 3 Games (1-2)
vs. Baltimore - First game without Randy Moss, leaves the Pats with no deep threat, which allows Ray Lewis and company to take away the short game and contain the run. Brady will have deja vu from last years playoff game where the Ravens came into Gillette Stadium and the Pats only managed 196 yards in a 33-14 blowout. Brady was sacked and picked off 3 times each.
@ Chargers - The Pats defense hasnt been all that great so far this year, I mean they did let the Bills put up 30 points. The Chargers might have one of the best offenses in the game, between their run game with Mathews and Tolbert, and their pass game with Rivers, Gates and Floyd. Gates has just been unstopablle this year and I dont see the Pats secondary or linebackers being able to shut him down. The Chargers offense will be too balanced for the Pats defense to figure it out and the Chargers should win pretty easily here.
vs. Vikings - After two tough loses, the Pats will come back and get a win against the Vikings. They'll be playing with a chip on their shoulder, not to let Moss come back and haunt them after trading him. By this point they should figure out what they want to do with their pass game and offense and finally click again. The home crowd will play a big part in this one on Halloween night, as the Pats score a late TD to squeak out of the win.
Seattle Seahawks - Playing in the NFC West, the Seahawks have as good as a chance to make the playoffs as any team in the NFL. However they have been very inconsistent, blowing out the 49ers in the opener then getting blown out by the Broncos and squeaking out a win against the Chargers then only putting up 3 points against the Rams.
Matt Hasselbeck has not been very good only throwing 4 TDs and 6 INTs through the first 4 games. To his defense he doesnt have much help out their, Deon Branch, John Carlson, and Mike Williams are his main options, 3rd and 4th options on most teams. Their run game isnt much better, although it should improve. They released Julius Jones after making a move to trade for Marshawn Lynch from the Bills which should be a nice combo working with Justin Forsett in the backfield. Leon Washington serves no purpose on offense apparently as he only has 12 carries, but did return 2 kickoffs 2 weeks ago.
Rookie Earl Thomas has really come on as of late, with 3 picks in the last two weeks, as he's been a nice addition to the Seahawks secondary, but they still rank bottom 5 in pass defense. It is their run defense led by Lofa Tatupu, Aaron Curry, Colin Cole and Chris Clemons that has really stepped up only allowing 72 yards per game on the ground and a 2.7 yards per carry.
Next 3 Games (2-1)
@ Bears - The Bears looked great getting off to a 3-0 start but now after that game with the Giants nobody believes in them. However they should have Jay Cutler back for this one, and they are at Soilder field and it probably will be cold, two things that benefit the Bears over the Seahawks. The Seahawks secondary has been picked apart and Cutler will look to do the same and look to get Forte involved. The Bears will use their pass game and that defense led by Julius Peppers to win this one.
vs. Cardinals - Max Hall. If Max Hall is starting this game then I dont see the Cards winning. Fitzgerald has been extremely quiet so far this year and Max Hall wont help that. With the run defense of the Seahawks I dont see the Cards doing much on offense and their defense hasn't been great either. The Seahawks should have a balanced offense of run and pass to help with this game.
@ Raiders - The Raiders run game has been effective with McFadden and now Bush will get his start. Good news for Seahawks is that they shut the run game down, and the Raiders dont have much of a pass game. Marshawn Lynch and Forsett should control the game on the ground as the Seahawks easily beat the Raiders.