October 21, 2021

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ESPN simulation of 2021 season projects a Dolphins’ playoff berth

The opening game of the 2021 NFL season is in the books. And you’ll be shocked to hear that QB Tom Brady led a last minute scoring drive to pull out a win for his team in Tampa Bay last night. Some things never change. But one thing that is new this season versus recent memory is that the Miami Dolphins appear to be getting a little bit of support from various outlets as a playoff contender. That is very new. Very new, indeed.

The most recent example of this support comes from ESPN, which provided an in-depth look at one of their 20,000 simulations of the 2021 regular season schedule. The simulation is a small fraction of the big picture puzzle for ESPN’s ‘Football Power Index’ rankings — but it’s also of particular note to Dolphins fans.

“Heading into the 2021 NFL season, ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) simulated the entire 285-game slate 20,000 times to create our projections. Having a sample size that large allows us to have the most accurate projections possible, which is, of course, what we want most of the time. But today, we’re only focused on one of them: Simulation No. 13,330.” — Seth Walder, ESPN

Simulation No. 13,330 is fairly kind to the Dolphins in their early slate of games for the year — it has Miami projected with a 3-2 record over the first five games of the season. But somewhere in the middle things go south; with the Dolphins stumbling to 6-6 in the next big update entering the final stretch of the year.

This specific simulation suggests a hot Dolphins finish, however — going 4-1 over their final 5 games to finish the year with a 10-7 record; a game ahead of the rest of the AFC’s Wild Card contenders (the Steelers, Jaguars and Chargers all finished at 9-8, with the Chargers missing the postseason). And with the No 5 seed in the AFC secured, Miami lands a date with the … Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC’s Wild Card round, losing 27-24 to end their season.

Should Miami’s season play out this way, it would be a pretty bittersweet ending — winning 10 games once again and making the postseason would put the Dolphins into a discussion as a franchise that they haven’t been in for 20 years. But drawing the Chiefs and narrowly losing would be an absolute heartbreaker for a Dolphins franchise that is starved for some level of postseason success.