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Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Can Dolphins, Bills be turnaround teams?


Parity isn't collectively bargained anymore. Whenever the NFL resumes, we can expect the competition level to remain relatively balanced -- even if the performances are sloppy because of missed workouts.

With parity in mind, ESPN analysts Tedy Bruschi and Herm Edwards mulled over the top candidates to go from a losing record last season to the playoffs in 2011.

The AFC East had two losing teams last season, but neither the Miami Dolphins nor Buffalo Bills made the conversation.

Bruschi brushed aside the easiest answers, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, and made a compelling case for the St. Louis Rams. Bruschi pointed out quarterback Sam Bradford is on the rise, and the Rams came one victory away from winning the flaccid NFC West last season.

Edwards went in a similar direction and picked the San Francisco 49ers, saying it will pivot on whether Jim Harbaugh can prop up quarterback Alex Smith.

Back to the Dolphins and Bills, I don't see either team making the playoffs next season. The Dolphins have the possibility to field a playoff-caliber team, and what I mean by that is a squad that would be competitive if they made the tournament. But the odds are stacked against them.

The Dolphins would need to conjure up quarterback play they didn't have last season in addition to the New England Patriots and New York Jets falling off in addition to enough contenders from other divisions not winning enough games.

The AFC seems too deep for the Dolphins until they get high-quality and consistent performances from their quarterback, whether it's Chad Henne or somebody not yet on the team. Then again, Chad Pennington showed what one reliable veteran could do in 2008.

The Bills still are a rebuilding team. They have the same competitive issues in the AFC East as the Dolphins, but lack the overall roster talent.