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Playoffs or no? Optimism on Dolphins in wake of preseason. Poll. Vote!; plus me and 'It Factor', baby beards, U-Bird Countdown (7) & more

1) It is FRIDAY, AUGUST 29. Click on Hard Line for today's latest column by me, on the NFL's new policy against domestic violence. 2) I'm back in Random Evidence Laboratories today conjuring the Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins beat Rams to close preseason, Philbin porn 'stache, Upset Bird Countdown, Moreno vs. Miller verdict, college football projections & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1afrootloopstoucanUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 7 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I launch our 24th season of NFL 1aa1abird7Friday Page predictions in the Miami Herald in 7 days, on Sept. 5. To celebrate we have a daily countdown honoring notable fictional birds of different species. Today (following Shoe the comic-strip purple martin), we welcome Toucan Sam, spokesbird for Kellogg's Froot Loops since 1963.

Invasion of the Football Sections!: Herald's annual preview sections are now out. My three contributions: Dolphins column (Angel, devil duel for the soul of Dolfans); NFL Ranking (I rate teams 1-32, slot Miami as playoff-bound); and Hurricanes column (search continues for Next Great Quarterback).

WHAT'S LEVEL OF DOLFAN OPTIMISM IN WAKE OF PRESEASON?: You have seen -- or perhaps purposely not watched but sort of followed -- the Dolphins' preseason. It ended last night with a 3-1 record. Not bad.
1aa1adolcardBut have we seen enough within those four exhibitions to warrant confidence moving forward? Miami is a tough nut to crack this year in terms of predictions. I and a few others see a playoff team. I'd say most experts do not. Pro Football Focus recently had the Fins ranked 31st, next to last. But enough with the so-called experts. We ran this exact poll question on July 22, just before the preseason. Five weeks later we'll be curious to compare results and gauge the impact (good or bad) of Miami's performance in the preseason. As always your are challenged to vote not as a fan, not on what you hope will happen, but impartially on what you honestly predict will happen. Vote and say why, and how the preseason weighed in your opinion.

Dolphins' five Top 100 players are...: ESPN's annual rank of NFL's Top 100 players on offense and defense is out, and Miami places five overall: DE Cam Wake (24th), CB Brent Grimes (60th), C Mike Pouncey (68th), OT Branden Albert (95th) and DT Randy Starks (96th). Elsewhere in the AFC East, Patriots place nine (from 7th to 86th), Bills place five (29th to 98th) and Jets place five (31st to 96th).

APPARENTLY, I INVENTED THE PHRASE 'IT FACTOR': Writer Bill Barnwell, in an NFL preview piece for ESPN's Grantland (read here), explores what the "It Factor" is and where the phrase came from, and he
1aa1aitfactor(sort of) credits me for inventing it. Who knew! He wrote: "The idea of the It Factor comes from a surprising place. Although I saw suggestions that the likes of Darrell Royal were saying that a guy had "it" as early as the mid-’70s, and plenty of coaches have used the term in the present day to describe what they saw in players from the past, nobody was using the term "It Factor" during the 20th century. The closest I could find in a newspaper search was Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote referring to the "need-it Factor" and "must-have-it Factor" in 1991..." So there you have it. I invented the It Factor. One question: WHERE MY ROYALTIES AT!?!

Wahl, a manufacturer of facial-hair grooming products, has come out with a Top 20 list of American cities most friendly to facial hair, and Miami is ranked No. 3, trailing only Boston and Los Angeles. The key to our success? In Miami, even women and babies have beards.

Check back throughout the day because update and add to our latest blogposts with a near-constant flurry...