A couple of hours ago, the NFL released to 2012 Schedule. As soon as the schedule is available, fans all over the place begin predicting what their team's record will be next season. That's no different for any of us as Miami Dolphins fans. However, that's not what the players are looking for when the schedule comes out. Matt Bowen from National Football Post gives a look at how a player will breakdown the release of the NFL schedule.
Bowen, a former NFL strong safety, six things he would immediately look for when the NFL schedule is released:
- Opening day opponent
- The "first quarter"
- Monday night games
- Warm and cold conditions
- Bye week
Using that criteria, here's the Dolphins 2012 schedule:
1 - Opening day opponent. As Bowen states, "Once you find out who (and where) you are playing when the season kicks off, the meetings-starting in the offseason-will be tailored to fit the personnel and scheme of your first opponent." With the Dolphins, that's a road trip to face the Houston Texans, who are coming off their first ever playoff season. The Texans are poised to make a deep run into the postseason again this year, with starting quarterback Matt Schaub returning this year after a Lisfranc fracture to his foot last year. The Dolphins are going to face a tough opening day opponent this September - and 0-6 all time against the Texans is not great track-record heading to Week 1.
2 - The "first quarter." Bowen points out that coaches "break down the season into four quarters." And, it's that first quarter that is critical. It sets up the entire season. December games don't matter in September. If the Dolphins struggle early, they will be digging themselves a hole that, no matter how well they play at the end of the year, will make it extremely tough to rebound. Last season should drive that point home better than any other point could. The Dolphins first four opponents this year are:
- at the Houston Texans
- Oakland Raiders
- New York Jets
- at the Arizona Cardinals
3 - Monday night games. The Dolphins don't land a Monday night game this year, but Bowen's point was not simply the Monday night game itself. He writes, "A short week of practice. And if you have to travel, it will impact your game prep. Some teams land back at the airport when the sun is coming up on Tuesday morning after a Monday night ballgame. You lose a day of film study, game prep and recovery for your body." The Dolphins have that exact opposite issue of a Monday night game. While Bowen was looking at the Monday to Sunday short week, the Dolphins will have a short week going from hosting the Tennessee Titans on November 11 to traveling to the Buffalo Bills for the Thursday Night Football game on November 15. The short week, with the travel north to western New York, is going to be tough - but the ten days from the Bills game to the Week 12 Seattle Seahawks game will be like a second bye week for Miami. That will be nice.
4 - Warm and cold conditions. Bowen writes, " If you have to go to Lambeau in late December, get ready. And the same applies with the heat if you playing down in Miami, Tampa or Jacksonville in early September." The good news for the Dolphins is, the heat should not be an issue, even in a 1pm opening week game in hot and humid Houston. Then again, this is the same team that let the heat get to them in Week 1 last year, in Miami. But, assuming the team gets conditioned this offseason as compared to last year's lockout schedule, the warm weather should be inconsequential to the Dolphins. But, cold weather could be an issue. Starting in mid-November, the Dolphins travel to Buffalo, the San Francisco 49ers, and the New England Patriots. The good news is, those are the only away games over the last eight weeks of the season. But, if any of those, especially the game against the Patriots in Foxboro, get the winter storms that are possible, it could be tough for the Dolphins.
5 - Travel. The Dolphins have a few west coast games this year. As Bowen states, "Those trips out west to play the Niners, Chargers, etc. are long. And flying home six hours after playing a game can be a nightmare. Sprain an ankle and then hop on a plane to fly back to the east coast? You won't be able to walk when you land." The Dolphins will be playing the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers out west this year. Them, add in flying to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Indianapolis Colts, the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots, and the New York Jets, all of which may not be as long of flights as going to San Franscisco, but from Miami, those are not exactly short flights either.
6 - Bye week. The fans and the players seem to look for the same thing in a bye week. According to Bowen , "You hope for a bye-week somewhere near the middle of the season." The Dolphins get that this year. The official off week for the Dolphins is Week 7. Not only does that place the by near the mid-season mark, but it also is a bye week heading into an away game against the division rival New York Jets. The Jets, meanwhile, will be coming off a game at the New England Patriots. It is a great time for the bye for the Dolphins. Add in the pseudo-bye after the Thursday night Buffalo Bills game in Week 11, and the Dolphins are not doing to badly in terms of rest during the year.
What do you think of the team's schedule?