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2021 NFL Schedule: Looking at Miami’s opponents for next season

Miami Dolphins v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The 2020 NFL schedule is completing the Week 16 slate of games, then will move into the final weekend of the regular season. While Week 17 is still ahead of us, plus the postseason, we can also start to look toward 2021, with the Miami Dolphins’ regular-season schedule pretty much in focus.

The NFL schedule is built based on a rotation of divisions. Each division in the league is matched up against a division from within the conference and a division from the other conference. Those eight games, plus the six games in the annual home-and-home series for each division, make up the majority of the schedule. The missing two games are played against the teams from the two divisions within the conference that finish in the same relative place in their divisional standings.

To make it a little easier to understand, the AFC East, including the Dolphins, will face the AFC South and the NFC South next season. Add those eight games to the six games Miami will play as they face the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, and New York Jets twice as AFC East rivals, and you have 14 of Miami’s 16 games. The remaining two games will be played against the teams that finish in the same position in the AFC North and AFC West that Miami finishes in the AFC East. The Dolphins are locked into the second position in the AFC East this year, so they will visit the second-place team in the AFC West, with the Las Vegas Raiders locking up that spot, and host the second-place team in the AFC North, which will be either the Baltimore Ravens or Cleveland Browns, depending on next week’s games.

This of course does not yet include the league’s plan for a 17th game for each team. The extra game is expected to be added in 2021, but the league is still working television contracts for coverage of the additional game. The additional game is expected to be similar to the two games against teams outside the division rotation, except it will come with some rotation of divisions from the other conference. Exactly who that would be, and whether the game would be played in Miami or away, is still to be determined.

Miami’s schedule will feature several games with interesting storylines. They will host the Houston Texans next year, welcoming Laremy Tunsil back to Miami. The Dolphins, in the trade that sent Tunsil to Texas, received a first-round pick last year, plus a first- and second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Houston’s struggles this year have that first-round pick projected to be the fourth-overall selection. Miami could become the first team since the 2000 Draft to be a playoff team with a top-five pick - Washington did it that year after the Saints made a trade in 1999 to land running back Ricky Williams.

The Dolphins will visit the Tennessee Titans, facing their former quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami selected Tannehill in the first round in 2018, picking him with the eighth overall selection. Tannehill started for the Dolphins from 2012 through 2018, but injuries derailed his career in South Florida and Miami traded him and a sixth-round pick to the Titans in 2019 for a seventh-round pick that year and a fourth-round pick in 2020.

Miami will also visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, meaning they will likely be facing former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Brady’s Patriots dominated the AFC East for 20 years, crushing so many hopes for Dolphins fans.

Here is Miami’s schedule as we know it now:

Home:

Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
AFC North second-place team

Away:

Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
AFC West second-place team (Las Vegas Raiders)