The Miami Dolphins got crushed by the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, 31-6, resulting in their third blowout loss of the season. Going winless over the first three weeks isn’t particularly notable, but it’s the way Miami has gotten to 0-3 that stands out. The Dolphins appear to be on a collision course to join the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns as the third member of the dubious 0-16 club. The Dolphins also appear set on rewriting the record books as perhaps the worst team in NFL history.
Hyperbole? Not in the least. The 2019 Dolphins have been outscored 133-16 over the first three games, giving them the worst point differential at this point of the season in NFL history. By comparison, the 2008 Lions (minus-54) and 2017 Browns (minus-20) were significantly better.
|Team (through the first three games of the season)||Points for||Points against||Point differential|
|2019 Miami Dolphins||16||133||-117|
|1961 Oakland Raiders||35||141||-106|
|1950 Baltimore Colts||27||124||-97|
|1973 New Orleans Saints||20||116||-96|
|2001 Washington Redskins||16||112||-96|
The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers set the bar for worst point differential in a season (minus-287 over 14 games). The worst point differential over a 16-game season is not too far behind; the 1981 Baltimore Colts were outscored by 274 points. This year’s Dolphins started with a brutal three-game stretch, facing the Ravens, Patriots and Cowboys, who are a combined 8-1. Still, if they continue on their current pace, they would have a minus-546 point differential by Game 14 and a minus-624 point differential by the end of the season.
An 0-16 season is typically unlikely, even for teams that get off to horrendous starts. From 2002, the first year the NFL expanded to 32 teams, to 2018 there have been 76 0-3 teams, or roughly four per season. Most of those teams eventually turn things around, finishing with an average won-loss record of 5-11. However, combine Miami’s points scored and allowed with the remaining opponents on their schedule, and the Dolphins are facing a more pessimistic outlook. (The Dolphins also have allowed the most yardage in the NFL through three games, while amassing the second-fewest yards.)
A game-by-game analysis gives them a 17 percent chance at a winless season, the highest among this year’s 0-3 teams, with the most likely outcome being a one or two-win campaign. The only time in franchise history the Dolphins won two or fewer games in a season was 2007, a 1-15 disaster that ended in Coach Cam Cameron getting fired after one year.
Miami’s best chance at a win should come in Week 9, when the New York Jets come to town. The Jets are also 0-3, their latest loss a 30-14 defeat by the Patriots, and have been hurt significantly by a bunch of injuries. Starting quarterback Sam Darnold has missed two games because of mononucleosis, backup quarterback Trevor Siemian was knocked out for the season in the very next game, and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa is also out for the year with a neck injury. Newly acquired running back Le’Veon Bell took his frustrations to Twitter, telling fans he would “embrace the hate” and wear it “as a badge of honor.” The anger in that fan base is justified: the Jets have managed just one offensive touchdown in three games.
If the Dolphins don’t get a win against the Jets in Week 9 (as of now, Miami has a 40 percent win probability), their next-best chance is again against Gang Green in Week 14, this time on the road. Other games which could derail a 0-16 bid include Week 16 at home against the Cincinnati Bengals (21 percent win probability for Miami), Week 6 against the Washington Redskins (16 percent win probability for Miami) and Week 13 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles (16 percent win probability for Miami). In their regular-season finale, the Dolphins face the Patriots, who could have nothing to play for, perhaps boosting Miami’s chances.
This assumes, of course, that Miami wants to win. Since Coach Brian Flores was hired in February, the Dolphins front office has traded six starters, including former first-round picks Robert Quinn, Ryan Tannehill, Laremy Tunsil and, most recently, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported the team also had trade talks about starting running back Kenyan Drake last week.
“The plan is to build a winner here,” General Manager Chris Grier said, via the team’s website. “No one likes losing. We’ve talked about building a team that’s going to win and compete for championships for a long time rather than being this one year then you fall back for two or three (years). It’s a long-term vision, but we will be aggressive.”
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