The Miami Dolphins are mid-way through their 2016 regular season schedule, going 4-4 over their first eight games. They are currently in second place in the AFC East, on a three-game winning streak, and one position out of the playoffs. There are a lot of things that have to happen to help the Dolphins reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008, including the team having to make a strong run through the second half of their season.
Luckily for the Dolphins, they have a very favorable schedule over the last eight weeks of the season, giving them a chance to do their part in an effort to stay in the playoff picture.
The Dolphins currently face a schedule against opponents with a .450 winning percentage, or remaining strength of schedule. That would put the team near the top in terms of easiest schedule remaining - behind just the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC and tied with the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals. Only one team in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks, have an easier schedule than the Dolphins the remainder of the season.
The Dolphins open the second-half of the season with a set of back-to-back games in California. The Week 10 game will feature Miami heading to Southern California to face the San Diego Chargers, a team that has played well this year, but currently has a 4-5 record.
They will then stay out west over the week to play the Los Angeles Rams in Week 11. The Rams currently have a 3-5 record.
Miami returns home for a November 27 game against the 1-7 San Francisco 49ers in Week 12 before getting back on the road for a Week 13 game at the 4-4 Baltimore Ravens.
The final quarter of the season will start with Miami hosting the Arizona Cardinals, who are currently 3-4-1. The final three weeks of the season will have Miami finishing their AFC East schedule with a Week 15 game at the 3-6 New York Jets, a Week 16 contest at the 4-5 Buffalo Bills, and, finally, a Week 17 rematch against the 7-1 New England Patriots, this game in Miami.
That makes the Week 17 contest the only time the Dolphins will face a team with a winning record through Week 9.
Yesterday, we took a look at the AFC playoff picture, with Miami sitting in the seventh position, the first team outside the postseason tournament:
1. New England Patriots (7-1) - AFC East leader
2. Oakland Raiders (7-2) - AFC West leader
3. Houston Texans (5-3) - AFC Sout leader
4. Baltimore Ravens (4-4) - AFC North leader
5. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) - Wildcard 1
6. Denver Broncos (6-3) - Wildcard 2
7. Miami Dolphins (4-4)
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)
9. San Diego Chargers (4-5)
10. Tennessee Titans (4-5)
11. Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
12. Buffalo Bills (4-5)
13. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1)
14. New York Jets (3-6)
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)
16. Cleveland Browns (0-9)
Miami needs to make a strong push over the next few weeks, especially as they start making their way through these teams with sub-.500 records. After a tough start to the year, Miami could see the schedule break their way over the next couple of weeks. Will they be able to take advantage of it and will they continue to carry the momentum they have been building over the past few weeks?