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2021 Miami Dolphins schedule: Breaking down the season

Miami Dolphins v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins’ roster was released last night by the NFL. In the new 17-game schedule, the Dolphins will play nine home games and eight road contests, including a trip to London this year. Miami landed two primetime games, a Thursday night game against the Ravens and a Monday night contest featuring the New Orleans Saints. Coming off a ten-win season last year, the Dolphins will be looking to back that up with another strong performance and a hopeful playoff run.

To get a better look at Miami’s schedule, we break it down into quarters (or a little more than a quarter at the end of the season). Can the Dolphins find their way to the postseason this year? It might be tough, but an early harsh schedule looks to potentially loosen up mid-way through the year.

1st Quarter

Week 1 - Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (September 12, 4:25pm ET)

Week 2 - Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (September 19, 1pm ET)

Week 3 - Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders (September 26, 4:05pm ET)

Week 4 - Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins (October 3, 1pm ET)

The first two games are the same for the Dolphins as their 2020 schedule, which is a little odd. Miami started 0-2 in those games last year, so they need to get off to a better start this year. The Colts are the only team in the first four games which the Dolphins did not face last year. The Dolphins alternate between away and home games throughout the first quarter of the season, which keeps it even but does lose some of the heat advantage Miami has early in the year. The Dolphins’ schedule this year is based primarily in the AFC South and NFC South, so the trip to the Raiders is Miami’s furthest trip west this season. Quarterbacks wise, the Dolphins will face Cam Newton, Josh Allen, Derek Carr, and Carson Wentz over this quarter of the season. Newton crushed Miami in Week 1 last year, but once the league got a look at Newton on the Patriots, he came back down to Earth, and hopefully Miami will face the Newton they saw in December. Allen always kills the Dolphins, so that have to figure out a way to slow him down. The Dolphins at Raiders game in 2020 was flexed to a Saturday night game, and it delivered with the Raiders jumping out to the lead, then Miami coming back to win with a last-minute field goal after a blind throw from Ryan Fitzpatrick as his head was being turned around by his facemask. Carr played really well in the game, and Miami will again be facing a tough test early in the year. Wentz was traded to the Colts this offseason and will be looking to prove he is the second-overall pick from 2016 quarterback and not the one who led the league in interceptions last year and finished with a 72.8 passer rating. (For comparison, the “bad” rookie year of Tagovailoa resulted in an 87.1 passer rating.)

Miami coming out of the first quarter 3-1 or 2-2 would be a solid start to the season.

2nd Quarter

Week 5 - Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (October 10, 1pm ET)

Week 6 - Miami Dolphins vs. Jacksonville Jaguars - London (October 17, 9:30am ET)

Week 7 - Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins (October 24, 1pm ET)

Week 8 - Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (October 31, 1pm ET)

The second quarter of the season starts with Miami facing the two other Florida teams, with one of those games in London. The good news is, Miami still lands their nine home games this year as the Jaguars are the home team for the London game. Facing the Buccaneers will be interesting, as Miami has traditionally played Tom Brady hard, but that was with the Patriots. Will it be a similar situation or will the team change end Miami’s ability to go toe-to-toe with Brady? In the shortened preseason this year, the second game could be the “dress rehearsal” contest, and the Dolphins will host the Falcons in that game. Odd that they will do the same thing in Week 7. And Miami closes out the Bills home-and-home series with a Halloween contest in Buffalo. At least that will be a nice and calm atmosphere with no drunken rowdiness in costumes or anything. The quarterbacks will be Brady, Trevor Lawrence, Matt Ryan, and Allen. Lawrence, with the pretty safe assumption that he will be starting from Week 1, will be playing his sixth game; Xavien Howard and the secondary need to make it rough on him all day as he tries to find open receivers. Ryan is coming off the two lowest passer rating seasons of his career; will he be rebounding this season or is he nearing the end of his career? And, Miami has their second shot at Allen.

Again, Miami coming out of this second 3-1 or 2-2 would be ideal. Hopefully they have at least split the season series with the Bills.

3rd Quarter

Week 9 - Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins (November 7, 1pm ET)

Week 10 - Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins (November 11, Thursday Night Football, 8:20pm ET)

Week 11 - Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (November 21, 1pm ET)

Week 12 - Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins (November 28, 1pm ET)

The third quarter of the season is good for Miami, who will play three of the four games at home. Trying to figure out what the Texans game will be like right now is probably impossible, given all the changes the team is undergoing, including potentially a quarterback change. Miami needs to take care of things with that game. The good news for the Dolphins’ Thursday Night Football game is that it is at home, keeping them from having to use a day of the short week on travel. The bad news is, it is a game against the Baltimore Ravens, who always crush Miami. The Dolphins are 1-8 in the last nine games against the Ravens. The first Jets game of the year comes up in Week 11 with a visit to New Jersey, which means Miami will have played all three away games against the AFC East before Thanksgiving - and hopefully have avoided most of the snow chances for the year. The Panthers coming to Miami at the end of the end of the month gives the team a shot at quarterback Sam Darnold, who moves from the Jets to the Panthers this year, as he plays for a team that, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, has an over/under of 7.5 wins this year. The quarterbacks for this quarter is whomever is playing for the Texans, Lamar Jackson, Zach Wilson, and Darnold. Jackson is a potential MVP candidate, while the mess in Houston, Wilson, and Darnold could give Miami a decent chance at success the rest of the quarter.

The Dolphins need to take advantage of the home games to come out of this stretch 4-0 or 3-1.

4th Quarter

Week 13 - New York Giants at Miami Dolphins (December 5, 1pm ET)

Week 14 - BYE

Week 15 - New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (December 18 or 19, Time TBD)

Week 16 - Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints (December 27, Monday Night Football, 8:15pm ET)

Week 17 - Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans (January 2, 1pm ET)

Week 18 - New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (January 9, 1pm ET)

Breaking the schedule down by quarters lands us with a six week quarter to end the season with both the bye week and the 17th game landing in there. Continuing from the third quarter, Miami has two home games, split by the bye week, to start the quarter, giving them three-straight contests, and four of five, at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins have to build momentum in the third quarter of the season and then carry it through these six weeks to make the playoffs. The final three weeks of the season bookend the season with the first three weeks as maybe the most difficult stretches on the schedule. It is strange that the Dolphins open and close their season with the Patriots - both teams will be completely different clubs with 17 weeks between contests. What will the Saints, starting the post-Drew Brees era, be for the Monday Night Football game? The quarterbacks will be Daniel Jones, Wilson, Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill/Ian Book/Trevor Siemian, Ryan Tannehill, and Newton. Tannehill getting a shot at playing his former team is worrisome.

The Dolphins need to finish 4-1 or 3-2 through this stretch.

Assuming everything falls into place here, the Dolphins , using the worst case of the suggested win totals above, will go 2-2, 2-2. 3-1, and 3-2 through the four quarters. That would give them a 10-7 record - about the same as last year’s 10-6 mark - and hopefully have them in position for a playoff spot.