Joe Philbin enters his second year as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins looking to improve upon an inconsistent season that found the Dolphins missing out on the playoffs at 7-9.
There is reason for optimism in Miami as quarterback Ryan Tannehill enters his second season, and he will do so with more weapons at his disposal and a year of NFL experience under his belt.
This is a huge season for the 'Phins as the organization and the fanbase will be looking for signs of improvement. Miami surprised some people in 2012, and it only hopes to continue making progress in 2013.
To that end, the schedule does not do the Dolphins any favors. With a combined opponents' record of 133-123, the Dolphins have the league's seventh-most difficult schedule.
|2013 Miami Dolphins Schedule|
|1||Sept. 8 ||@ Cleveland Browns||1 p.m.||CBS|
|2||Sept. 15 ||@ Indianapolis Colts||1 p.m.||CBS|
|3||Sept. 22 ||vs. Atlanta Falcons||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|4||Sept. 30||@ New Orleans Saints||8:40 p.m.||ESPN|
|5||Oct. 6||vs. Baltimore Ravens||1 p.m.||CBS|
|7||Oct. 20||vs. Buffalo Bills||1 p.m.||CBS|
|8||Oct. 27||@ New England Patriots||1 p.m.||CBS|
|9||Oct. 31||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||8:25 p.m.||NFLN|
|10||No. 11||@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8:45 p.m.||ESPN|
|11||Nov. 17||vs. San Diego Chargers||1 p.m.||CBS|
|12||Nov. 24||vs. Carolina Panthers||1 p.m.||FOX|
|13||Dec. 1||@ New York Jets||1 p.m.||CBS|
|14||Dec. 8||@ Pittsburgh Steelers||1 p.m.||CBS|
|15||Dec. 15||vs. New England Patriots||1 p.m.||CBS|
|16||Dec. 22 ||@ Buffalo Bills||1 p.m.||CBS|
|17||Dec. 29 ||vs. New York Jets||1 p.m.||CBS|
Note: For a complete look at Miami's 2013 schedule, check out NFL.com.
The good news for the Dolphins with this schedule is that the majority of their tougher out-of-division matchups will take place in Miami.
This certainly is not to suggest their away schedule is easy. The Dolphins have to travel to take on the Saints. While the Saints are coming off of a down 7-9 year, this team was still 4-4 at home. Also, the return of Sean Payton to the sidelines means the Saints will be making a strong charge to return to the postseason.
The Dolphins better hope they improve upon their 27th ranked pass defense if they want a chance of taking down the Saints in the Superdome.
That pass defense will also be severely tested on the road against the Colts. The Colts finished seventh in passing yards last season, and with Andrew Luck moving into his second season, don't expect that offense to be slowing down. Miami lost to the Colts in Indianapolis last year, 23-20.
There is also a road game against the Steelers, and while Pittsburgh finished just 8-8 last year, they were 5-3 at home, and no team is going to look forward to going into Heinz Field.
However, the Dolphins will also benefit from playing in an AFC East that is largely in rebuilding mode. The New England Patriots figure to continue to be elite, but the Bills and Jets are still trying to get things going in the right direction.
The Dolphins split with both the Jets and Bills last year. If they want to improve this season, they almost have to get at least three wins out of those four games.
Most Pivotal Matchup
As we just discussed, the Patriots remain on their throne atop the AFC East, and the team is loaded for another deep postseason run this year.
The Dolphins, who have struggled against the Pats under Belichick and Brady, have to be itching to end this reign, or at least be competitive with New England. The Patriots swept the Dolphins last season by a combined score of 51-16.
Miami must muster better outings against their division rival this year. New England has been the best in the division for quite some time, and if the Dolphins want to contend for the postseason, they need to prove they can compete with the reigning AFC East champions.