With the NFL (possibly) getting ready to finally join the rest of us in 2011, it's time for me to look at the Dolphins' 2011 Season. This will be a two-part breakdown, with today looking at Weeks 1-8.
Week 1 - vs. New England (MNF)
What a way to start the season. We have the orange carpet party that Week 1's MNF in Miami will be. Think of all of the celebrities that will be in Joe Robbie-Pro Player-Dolphin-Dolphins-Land Shark-Sun Life Stadium on September 12. Not to mention, this is the early MNF game, the day following the 10th anniversary of September 11th. And, oh, by the way, Miami is hosting the team that has won 8 of the last 10 AFC East Division titles. Tom Brady and the Patriots beat the Dolphins 79-21 over their two games last year. Depending on what happens in the shortened free agency period, the Patriots could very easily improve over last year. This could be a very frightening game.
Week 2 - vs. Houston
Oh, good. Immediately following the Patriots, the Dolphins welcome a team they have never beaten into Miami. Literally. The Dolphins are 0&5 against the young Houston franchise. The last time they met, in December 2009, also in Miami, the Texans scored fast and furious in the first half, jumping out to a 27-0 lead, before Miami made a charge. Houston held on to win 27-20. Since then, the Texans have only improved. With Houston's extremely dangerous offense and a quickly developing defense, this will be a tough game for the Dolphins. The heat and humidity of Miami may be an asset to the Dolphins, but the Texans are a very young team and could just as easily deal with the climate in South Beach.
Week 3 - @ Cleveland
Week 3 starts Miami'slongest road trip, with the Dolphins not enjoying another home game until Week 7. Facing last year's 5&11 Cleveland team is not as easy as it might sound. This team was really pretty good last year, just not able to put teams away in the 4th quarter. And, Miami was the Browns fifth and final win last year. During the offseason, Miami hired Brian Daboll, Cleveland's offensive coordinator in 2010, to the same position for 2011. Could be a very entertaining and, for Dolphins fans, a very frustrating game.
Week 4 - @ San Diego
Week 4, and another tough game for the Dolphins. Not only do the Dolphins face the Chargers, but they have to do the long trip west to do it. The Chargers, however, are known for their slow starts to each season, a fact that could, and hopefully should, assist Miami. However, if Philip Rivers gets the Charger off to a hot start, the Dolphins could be in trouble.
Week 5 - BYE
Week 6 - @ New York Jets (MNF)
The second AFC East game for the Dolphins, the second Monday Night game. This game could have huge implications, as the Dolphins and the Jets, one of the best rivalries in the NFL, both look towards the playoffs in 2011. The Dolphins do get to dodge the snow of a late season New York game by heading up there in October, but either way, this game is going to be tough. Either team could walk out of, what should be a cram it down your throat type of game, with the win.
Week 7 - vs. Denver
After a month of traveling around the country, Miami finally returns home to host the Broncos. This game could be easiest on the schedule for the Dolphins up to this point, as the Broncos will most likely find themselves in a rebuilding year.
Week 8 - @ New York Giants
Miami makes its second trip to New Jersey in Week 8, this time to face the Giants. It's yet another tough game for the Dolphins, now facing Eli Manning and the Giants - a team that finished the year last year in the top 10 for offensive passing, offensive rushing, defensive passing, and defensive rushing.
Trying to be realistic, if Miami can come out of these first eight weeks at 4&3, I will be pleased. It's a very tough start to the season, and 4&3, with a little easier second half of the season, should set the team up for success.