Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/12/12
It’s not shocking for teams coming off losing seasons to demonstrate renewed energy.

After all, Jared Allen of the 3-13 Minnesota Vikings is preaching Super Bowl to fellow teammates. The 6-10 Buffalo Bills see themselves as serious players in the AFC East.
And what about those underachieving Philadelphia Eagles, who went 8-8? Well, Michael Vick is vocal about the Lombardi Trophy in sight.
This is exactly the attitude fans want their team leaders to carry. It may come across as cocky and arrogant.

But what’s the point of competition if the ultimate goal doesn’t include championships? The Miami Dolphins fit the swagger of a winner, as veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby believes a date in New Orleans is realistic.
But really, how far can they go?

Best-Case Scenario:
The case for a starting quarterback is locked up early with rookie Ryan Tannehill supplementing the scrappy Matt Moore. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman appears to be an excellent hire as Tannehill picks up the West Coast offense he learned while they shared time at Texas A&M. First-year coach Joe Philbin is a breath of fresh air as Miami lights up the scoreboard.
The Dolphins’ early schedule is favorable. There’s no doubt they will be tested at Houston in Philbin’s regular season debut. In fact, many see the Texans coming out on top. But they match up well the following weeks with the Raiders, Jets, Cardinals and Rams. Cupcakes in the schedule never hurt, although assumed victories are never a lock. If those games are won, the Dolphins could be 4-2 before the Week 7 bye.
Miami will enjoy the fact that only two games through November and December are played in cold weather climates (Buffalo and New England). That is something players and coaches must feel good about. The rebuilding Colts, Seahawks and Jaguars are also on the radar with Seattle traveling to the east coast for an early afternoon kickoff. All teams feature questions on both sides of the ball, namely offense. Suddenly, Miami could have 7-8 wins after Week 15.   
Philbin and other Dolphins players have said that no big names are needed for a successful West Coast offense. While receiver Chad Johnson’s future looks doubtful due to an arrest for domestic violence, others could emerge.
Speedy fullback Charles Clay picks up from the end of 2011 and lights up the red zone. Remember, he reeled in two touchdowns the final two weeks of last season. Legedu Naanee is coming off a decent season with Carolina with 44 receptions and 467 yards.

These numbers could only improve after making just ten starts in 2011. And let’s not forget about the Kardashian-free Reggie Bush. He could eclipse 1,000 yards rushing if he remains healthy for the second consecutive season.
Cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith could finally create some turnovers with drive-killing interceptions. Pass defense will continue to step up with secondary guru Kevin Coyle’s schemes. Finally, defensive tackle Paul Soliai will not prove to be a draft bust as he aids Cameron Wake in a volatile pass rush.  
The Dolphins split the AFC East (3-3) and reach a surprising 9-7 record. Unfortunately, Miami narrowly misses the playoffs.
Worst-Case Scenario:
This could get ugly in a hurry. In a way, it already has with Johnson’s arrest. It’s still to be decided – and jumping to conclusions is not fit for this situation – but it doesn’t look good. Still, it’s safe to say No. 85 is done for 2012 before it ever started.
Meanwhile, Matt Moore is named the starter under center and sputters Miami to 0-3. Questions quickly surround GM Jeff Ireland and impatient owner Stephen Ross grows frustrated. Rookie Ryan Tannehill is thrown into the starter’s role and fails to impress.
Was it too early? Game speed picks up in the regular season and defensive fronts always grow tougher to read. Tannehill’s inexperience at quarterback is now showing its ugly colors.
The lack of big-name receivers is a growing concern. Projected starter Brian Hartline has fallen down the depth charts throughout training camp and will continue to do so. A team that ranked 22nd in the total offense last season either makes a repeat performance or further falters. Davone Bess is the team’s lone threat, but his Wes Welker-like talent can only go so far on third and long.  
Second-year running back Daniel Thomas dealt with hamstring issues throughout his rookie campaign and could be an issue yet again. Given Bush’s shaky health history, the Dolphins are losing grip on the ground as well.
The Dolphins are in a tough spot. They are installing new systems on both offense and defense, face distractions with Johnson’s recent arrest and are learning under a first-year coach.
Defensively, the team may struggle to execute its 4-3 scheme. Names like Wake, Misi, Davis, Smith, Dansby, Burnett, Odrick and Soliai all have the talent to compete at high levels. They must utilize Coyle’s playbook that worked so well in Cincinnati. Hopefully, this will be a short learning curve. If they fail, explosive offenses like New England will show who rules the division.    
Distractions pile up with loss after loss and Ireland loses his job as general manager. Miami falls to a disappointing 4-12 season and find the Miami Heat taking over South Beach come January.

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