The NFL schedule has finally been released. Fans have known for quite some time who their teams would face, but now we know exactly when and where. While every year teams look at the schedule and initially think it's a brutal schedule, inevitably a few of them turn out to be a lot softer than anticipated. I do not, however, think that will be the case for the Miami Dolphins. At first glance, the first nine weeks of their 2013 schedule looks to be one of the hardest schedules that I have ever seen. I think that Miami makes a good case for the claim of being "hosed" by the NFL's scheduling committee.
The year starts off fairly easy for the Dolphins, with a game at the floundering Cleveland Browns. While the Browns do have some pieces there in Cleveland, namely their promising young running back Trent Richardson, they have yet to put a complete team together and should once again be a bottom-feeder in the AFC. Chalk this game up as a win for the Dolphins. After the initial ease, the schedule gets a lot tougher for Miami. Their next game is again on the road, this time against the up-and-coming Indianapolis Colts. A surprise playoff team from last year, the Colts should only get better with their star second year quarterback, Andrew Luck. While this game will be a tough test for Miami, I think that they have improved enough over last year that this should also be a win for us. After two games on the road, Miami gets to come back for their home opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and company were very nearly the NFC Champions last season and should contend for a championship again this season. After two road wins, this game appears to be a loss for Miami. Then Miami gets to go back on the road, for the third time in the first four weeks, to play a Monday Night game against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints under-performed last season, due largely to the fact that their head coach, Sean Payton, was suspended for the entire season. With Payton reunited with Drew Brees, look for the Saints to be much improved and should be able to take this game. With two straight losses under their belts, the Miami Dolphins get to look forward to the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have been decimated by free agency this year, along with the retirement of the heart and soul of their team, Ray Lewis. While they are the defending champs and you have to give them the respect they earned, I think that Miami can come out of this with a win.
All that leaves the Dolphins with a record of 3-2 going into their bye week in week 6. The schedule takes a slight dip in intensity immediately after the bye with a match-up against the Buffalo Bills. While division games are always a tough battle, Miami is clearly head and shoulders above the Bills at the moment, so this should be a win for us as well. On a two game winning streak and having won four of their first six, the Dolphins should be feeling pretty good about themselves going into their first match up against the New England Patriots, who have themselves been hurt in free agency by the loss of their best wide receiver, Wes Welker. Miami will probably split their two games with New England this season, so I will give the nod in this game to the Patriots, as it will be a home game for them. The final game in this brutal stretch for Miami is a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals on a short week. Having a Thursday night game after a tough division match up is no easy task for anyone. Having that game be against yet another playoff team from last season is absolutely brutal. I'll mark this down as another loss for my Dolphins, knocking us down to an even 4-4 in the first eight games of the season.
If Miami can get through their first eight games near a .500 record, the schedule eases up quite a bit for them, with their next four games against teams that they should beat (Tampa, San Diego, Carolina, and the Jets). All four of those games should be wins, to put us back up to 8-4 and poised to make a push for the playoffs going into the final quarter of the season. Riding a four game win streak, the Dolphins and Mike Wallace face his former team on the road against Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a tough place to play, and while they are not the same team that they have been in the past, this is probably going to end up being another loss for the Dolphins. Our final three games are all against divisional opponents, with two of them being home games for us. As I said earlier, I feel like Miami is going to split against the Patriots, so I'll give this matchup to the Dolphins, as well as their final two games against Buffalo and the Jets.
With a three game winning streak under our belts and an overall record of 11-5, Miami should be in the playoffs this season. And if the recent history is any indication, if you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. I'm not saying that Miami will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season, but it is not out of the question. There is a lot of reason for optimism down in South Beach.
Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.