A couple of days ago, we looked at each of the first eight weeks of the Dolphins' 2011 schedule. Today, we will review the final nine games of the season.
Those first seven games are tough. With vs. New England, vs. Houston, @ Cleveland, @ San Diego, @ New York Jets, vs. Denver, and @ New York Giants, the Dolphins are going to have a struggle in front of them. I don't think it will be horrible, but it probably won't be pretty, either. The second half of the year has a few more "easy" games (though, really, there aren't any easy NFL games...just ask the 2007 Baltimore Ravens...), before ending the year tough once again.
Week 9 - @ Kansas City
After a 10&6 season and a Division title, the Chiefs are standing at the edge of taking the next step. As the Patriots of middle American, this team could be really, really good. But, I think they will take a step back this year. The Chargers and Raiders are both getting better. (I'll wait for you to stop laughing about the Raiders.) I just don't see them as the dominant team some seem to think they are becoming. However, the Dolphins are traveling to Arrowhead Stadium, which may be the toughest home field in all of football (although, they haven't caused an earthquake like Seattle). This could be an easy game for the Dolphins, especially if the defense dominantes, but I don't think it is one to overlook, either.
Week 10 - vs. Washington
Washington is an interesting team. Tons of talent, not a lot of production. This team is so strange, they benched Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman. I have no idea what is happening in D.C. And, ever mroe interesting, after being drafted by the Cam Cameron Dolphins, then being signed by the offenive coordinator Cam Cameron Ravens, the Redskins now have, and seem to love, John Beck. I don't think he will be the starter come Week 10, but he very easily could be.
Week 11 - vs. Buffalo (Flex capable)
Two home games in a row. This time, Miami welcomes in the AFC East's constant basement dweller in Buffalo. Theoretically, this should be a simple win for Miami. But, somehow, the Dolphins always seem to mess up the easy ones - as can bee seen by them losing to Buffalo last year in Week 15. Hopefully, they can figure out that problem this year.
Week 12 - @ Dallas
Tony Sparano heads back to Dallas. For Thanksgiving. This is the first turkey day game for Miami since 2006's visit to Detroit. The good news is, after the game, the Dolphins will have a long, bye-like break between Thanksgiving and their Week 13 game. The bad news is, they only have 4 days between Buffalo and, what should be a good, Dallas team.
Week 13 - vs. Oakland (Flex capable)
After traveling to San Diego earlier in the year, the Dolphins dodge the cross country travel plans this time, by hosting the Oakland Raiders. Oakland is getting better - but they are still Oakland. With 10 days to prepare for this game, Miami should be ready for whatever the Raiders have.
Week 14 - vs. Philadelphia (Flex capable)
The Vicks come to town the second week of December. This will probably be an extremely tough game for the Dolphins, as they try to contain Vick. I don't like this mathup at all.
Week 15 - @ Buffalo (Flex capable)
The first of back-to-back cold weather games for the Dolphins, and the first of three straight AFC East games to end the year. After having just met the Bills four weeks earlier, Miami should be ready for them again.
Week 16 - @ New England (Flex capable)
The schedule makes really loved the Dolphins this year. First week of the season, open on MNF against the Patriots in Miami. In Week 16, Miami should head to snowy Foxboro for the other half of the season series. Well, at least the next game is at home.
Week 17 - vs. New York Jets (Flex capable)
The Jets end the season. Last time the Jets ended the season, it was 2008 and Miami won the division, knocking Brett Favre into retirement (sort of). This year, the grudge match comes to Miami, ensuring the Dolphins don't get three straight snow games, and could, potentially, have playoff implications again.
I see the Dolphins potentially going 7&2 over the last 9 games, which would include splitting the season series with the Pats and Jets, as well as sweeping the Bills. Combined with the 4&3 from the first half of the season, the Dolphins could end up 11&5. If they do, the AFC East title could be within reach.
But, this is all speculation, dependent on so many factors, not the least of which is the CBA being finalized.