Most Miami Dolphins fans haven't even considered that their team could contend in a Super Bowl this season. Hell, everyone is just happy the vibe around the team is that it's destined for the playoffs. But could the improbable become a reality?
Probably not! Now that we have set ourselves straight as to what reality might look like, a brother can dream, can't he? Technically, every NFL team in mid-September has a fighting chance of winning a Super Bowl — there aren't any rules prohibiting the Jaguars from hoisting that trophy; it's just bloody unlikely.
So what needs to happen in this NFL season for the Dolphins to be the final team standing?
Ryan Tannehill must be more elite than Joe Flacco.
Forget the Top Ten QB in the NFL thing. Ryan Tannehill doesn't need to take another step forward in 2015; he needs to get a running start and jump over the creek that separates the mediocre NFL quarterbacks from the Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Tannehill threw 27 touchdowns last season; this season, he needs to push 40 for the Dolphins to be legit Super Bowl contenders.
It's not all on Tannehill to put up Peyton Manning numbers this season — he certainly can't do it all on his own — but he has all the tools he needs to put up All Pro numbers this season if everything breaks his way. We are talking Super Bowl here, so the goals have to be set in the stars if the Fins are to shock the NFL.
DeVante Parker has to resemble a poor man's Dez Bryant.
What a tease so far — Dolphins fans got only a catch's worth of the DeVante Parker experience this preseason. Parker has big-time talent, talent that reminds people of one of the best wideouts in the game — Dez Bryant. Bryant might be one of the best wide receivers in the game today, but his rookie year wasn't record-breaking — only 45 catches for 561 yards and six touchdowns. If the Dolphins are to have the sort of offense they'll need to win a Super Bowl this season, Parker needs to at least duplicate that record.
The real explosion can come with time — as Bryant's has — but in his rookie year, DeVante Parker must get over his foot issues quickly, contribute, and be a factor in the passing game all season for the Dolphins to be playing football in February.
Brent Grimes must stay healthy, and the rest of the secondary needs to grow up fast.
Super Bowl teams rarely have glaring weak links, but the Dolphins' secondary looks to have those weak links heading into the season. Most will focus on the offensive line as a unit in flux, but there is amazing talent there to work with — the same talent doesn't pop off the paper at you when looking at the Dolphins' secondary depth chart.
Brent Grimes must be a part of the group all year long — that's a given if it is to be special — but in addition to that luck, the Dolphins need Jamar Taylor and Will Davis to prove why the team spent high draft picks on them. With Louis Delmas out for the year, Walt Aikens must step right in and be serviceable at the safety spot opposite Reshad Jones.
All of these things aren't just necessary for the Dolphins to have a dominant secondary; they are needed for Miami to simply field a contender. Anything less than an average secondary in the NFL gets you bounced from the playoffs.
Ndamukong Suh must be in the defensive MVP discussion.
Want to win a Super Bowl? Signing a player like Suh is a great start. Now they just need him to play better than he ever has, that's all. Suh can continue to play at the same level he always has — a Hall of Fame one — but if the Dolphins are to win a Super Bowl in 2016, this must be his best year of the bunch.
Suh has plenty of help on the defensive line this season, but for the Dolphins to get the most for their money (and money they didn't spend elsewhere on the team), Suh will need to more than live up to the hype.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Brandon Albert has to be healthy and back to the player he was pre-injury.
What a difference Brandon Albert was making before he went down with a knee last season. Now all he has to do is recover quickly and be better than he was then. Hey, you want to win a Super Bowl, right? A Pro Bowl left tackle is normally a nice piece to add to that puzzle.
With Mike Pouncey back at center, second-year standout Ja'Wuan James on the right, and a combination of rookie Jamil Douglas, Dallas Thomas, and Billy Turner plugging the guard spots, the Dolphins have enough to keep Tannehill upright. It just depends upon at what level the group plays. How they form a line throughout the season will determine if the Dolphins are Super Bowl contenders or wild-card-game fodder.
If the Dolphins want to win the Super Bowl in 2016, Brandon Albert must be healthy, and he must anchor the offensive line.