The League

Gene Wang
Fantasy Guru

Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

South Beach Swoon?

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The Miami Dolphins were one of the NFL's feel-good stories last season. No one expected the Dolphins, even with Bill Parcells making personnel decisions, to be much of a factor in the AFC East, much less a contender for the division title.

But under then-rookie coach Tony Sprano and with a new quarterback in Chad Pennington, Miami finished 11-5 and made the playoffs. Meantime mighty New England ended with the same record but missed the postseason.

We'll see right away if Miami's surprising season was a sign the organization is ascending back to prominence, or if the Dolphins simply benefited last season from a favorable schedule. Miami's first three games are against teams that made the playoffs last season, and its fourth game is against Buffalo, which figures to be much improved with the addition of Terrell Owens.

The Dolphins open the season on the road against Atlanta, another upstart team from last season. The Falcons were 11-5 and made the playoffs thanks largely to rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner. With Ryan having gained a full season of experience, Atlanta again should be one of the better teams in the NFC.

Miami hosts Indianapolis on Monday night in Week 2. Even without Tony Dungy coaching them, the Colts are still one of the top teams in the NFL as long as quarterback Peyton Manning continues to play at a high level.

In Week, 3, the Dolphins make the long road trip to San Diego, which like Indianapolis has designs on a trip to the Super Bowl this season. The Chargers will have a healthy LaDainian Tomlinson, a healthy Antonio Gates and perhaps most important a heathy Shawne Merrimann.

Then in Week 4, Miami hosts the Bills, who by then will have back Marshawn Lynch. The productive running back was suspended for the first three games of the season for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

And of course Owens gets his first chance to stick it to Parcells, his former coach in Dallas who never saw eye to eye with "the player." You remember, of course, Parcells refused to acknowledge Owens by name, instead calling him "the player" in news conferences and interviews.

Don't think for a minute this is just another game for Owens. Parcells basically went out of his way to embarrass Owens when they were in Dallas together, sabotaging the relationship from the start. You can be sure Owens won't have a short memory when it comes to Parcells. He'll be extra motivated for this game, and that means he'll probably be all the more dangerous.

By Gene Wang  |  April 15, 2009; 12:07 PM ET  | Category:  Gene Wang , Miami Dolphins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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