Upcoming opponents have QB controversies, but can Miami Dolphins take advantage?

Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick beat his old team, the Jets, last Sunday. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

DAVIE — With two games looming against the Patriots and Bills and a potentially frigid trip to Kansas City still to come, the schedule-maker didn’t do the Dolphins any favors.

But there is one wrinkle that could work in the Dolphins’ favor: unsettled quarterbacking. Take a look at the road ahead and you’ll see what we mean:

Tampa Bay (Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium): The Bucs arrive not with Jameis Winston, but Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Florida State fans no doubt are disappointed that Winston has a shoulder injury that could keep him out for several weeks. Does that help Miami? Depends on how you look at it. Fitzpatrick, who turns 35 next week, saves some of his better work for when he faces the Dolphins. He’s a lifetime 5-5 against Miami with 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions but has a career winning percentage of .409 against everybody else.

Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke has a history with Fitzpatrick, having coached at Harvard during his junior season. Burke said the change at QB shouldn’t dramatically affect his approach Sunday.

“I haven’t seen their offense, in terms of schematically, really change drastically,” Burke said. “Ryan has always been a – how do I say this? – sneaky athlete. He’s underestimated. He’s not afraid to pull it down and he moves around really well in the pocket. He’s somewhat unpredictable in the way that he escapes in those sort of things. There’s still an element of the run game. Even when Winston was playing, they weren’t a huge, truly zone-read quarterback run team. That wasn’t necessarily part of their design. Schematically, it’s the same.”

New England (Nov. 26 in Foxborough, Dec. 11 in Miami): The Patriots are stuck with some 40-year-old guy at quarterback. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)

Denver (Dec. 3, away): The best QB in the Mile High City is up in the suites, where football operations czar John Elway overees a messy QB situation inherited by former Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Trevor Siemian has a 76.8 passer rating. Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler have bum right shoulders. Interceptions and sacks are piling up, and you can bet solving this will be high on Elway’s priority list in the offseason.

Buffalo (Dec. 17 away, Dec. 31 at Hard Rock): Tyrod Taylor has a 91.4 passer rating, has thrown only three interceptions and can beat you with his feet. But the way things stand, he won’t beat the Dolphins. In a surprise development, coach Sean McDermott announced he’s benching Taylor in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman, whose career consists of seven completions for 79 yards.

Kansas City (away, Dec. 24): Put this in the same category as the games against New England, where the Dolphins will have their hands full with the opposing QB. Alex Smith leads the NFL with a 113.9 passer rating. He has 18 touchdowns against one interception. Oh, and the guy right behind him? Tom Brady (108.3).

Important disclaimer: None of this matters if the Dolphins don’t improve their run defense and force quarterbacks to beat them with their arm. Or if Dolphins cornerbacks don’t tighten coverage on receivers.

Stats don’t lie: Run defense lately has been historically bad

Snap conclusions from Dolphins’ loss to Panthers

Flunking … er, grading the Dolphins for their loss to the Panthers

COLUMN: These Miami Dolphins are baffled, lost and shamed and it’s time to question everything

Why didn’t the Miami Dolphins sit on the ball before halftime at Carolina?

[PHOTO GALLERY: Images from the Fins’ embarrassing loss in Carolina]

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