The Miami Dolphins imploded at the tail end of the 2013 campaign, losing their final two games and ultimately missing the playoffs. The team will be looking to put that experience in the rear-view and make a postseason push with a strong 2014 offseason under its belt.
The NFL released its 2014 schedule, finally giving ‘Phins fans a tangible idea of what the road to the playoffs will look like. It may not be the toughest slate in the league, but it is certainly a hard road that will demand excellence from the coaching staff and players for 16 straight games.
Keep reading for a complete look at Miami’s schedule for the upcoming season, courtesy of NFL.com, which includes dates, times and television information, plus an in-depth breakdown of the team’s matchups.
|1||Sept. 7||vs. Patriots||1 p.m.||CBS|
|2||Sept. 14||at Bills||1 p.m.||CBS|
|3||Sept. 21||vs. Chiefs||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|4||Sept. 28||at Raiders||1 p.m.||CBS|
|6||Oct. 12||vs. Packers||1 p.m.||Fox|
|7||Oct. 19||at Bears||1 p.m.||CBS|
|8||Oct. 26||at Jaguars||1 p.m.||CBS|
|9||Nov. 2||vs. Chargers||1 p.m.||CBS|
|10||Nov. 9||at Lions||1 p.m.||CBS|
|11||Nov. 13||vs. Bills||8:25 p.m.||NFLN|
|12||Nov. 23||at Broncos||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|13||Dec. 1||at Jets||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|14||Dec. 7||vs. Ravens||1 p.m.||CBS|
|15||Dec. 14||at Patriots||1 p.m.||CBS|
|16||Dec. 21||vs. Vikings||1 p.m.||Fox|
|17||Dec. 28||vs. Jets||1 p.m.||CBS|
According to ESPN, the Dolphins drew the 12th-toughest schedule in the NFL for the upcoming season and it may be even tougher than it appears on paper. Outside of its usual divisional matchups, Miami has some truly brutal battles ahead.
The team did add some players in free agency, though. The most notable of these include running back Knoshown Moreno, offensive tackle Branden Albert, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, safety Louis Delmas and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.
The Dolphins did say goodbye to a handful of key contributors this spring. The team lost Chris Clemons and Paul Soliai in free agency, two notable talents that will be sorely missed in 2014.
There is still plenty of work to be done as well. The offensive line must be rebuilt from the ground up and the signings of Shelley Smith and Albert aren’t enough to make this a position of strength yet.
James Walker of ESPN noted that there are no clear-cut options beyond the three set starters the team is employing:
There are only three set starters on the offensive line currently on Miami's roster. Albert, a Pro Bowler, is a lock at left tackle. Center Mike Pouncey, who also made his first Pro Bowl in 2013, is another lock at center. Smith is a favorite to start at one guard position but he has to compete for the job.
While the draft looks to be a potential method of filling these glaring holes, the team would boast an immensely inexperienced line and that is not the ideal way to protect third-year signal-caller Ryan Tannehill during a critical stage of his development.
Make sure to keep an eye on this situation as the season inches closer.
The team will host 2013 playoff teams in the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers of the AFC West and Green Bay Packers of the NFC North. There will be Sun Life Stadium showdowns with the Baltimore Ravens, who appear poised for a bounce-back campaign after narrowly missing the postseason last year, and the Minnesota Vikings, who are always a threat when Adrian Peterson is on the field.
Things certainly do not get any easier for the ‘Phins when they strike out on the road. They will have to play Peyton Manning and his Super Bowl runner-up Denver Broncos, which represents a chance for Moreno to go up against his former team.
There will be forays to the far north, too, for matchups against the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, both undoubtedly looking to avenge disappointing ends to their respective 2013 campaigns.
Miami also happens to be one of the teams slated to perform in London during the 2014 season. The franchise will clash with the Oakland Raiders in Wembley come Week 4, with kickoff set for 1 p.m. ET.
Owner Stephen M. Ross cited his organization’s prominent global presence as a reason the team is proud to travel abroad and is looking forward to this year’s edition of the NFL’s International Series, as per Dolphins.com:
With our historically strong following internationally, the Dolphins are proud to once again represent the league abroad as one of the six participants of the 2014 International Series. The opportunity to again connect with our many fans overseas and to expose a growing global audience to the sport we all love is something that our entire organization will fully embrace.
The travel repercussions for that game will have a notable impact on Miami. Normally a matchup with the Raiders wouldn't be considered a pivotal contest, but considering the circumstances, it's a game the Dolphins must prepare for extra carefully and a win they must have considering some of their other, stronger opponents.
How many wins will the Dolphins have in 2014?
It is definitely going to be interesting to see how the ‘Phins perform in 2014 overall. The squad has plenty of new faces and shored up a number of key areas this spring, so it would not be surprising if it made its first playoff run since 2008.
Still, the New England Patriots continue to prove they have a stranglehold on the AFC East, and the Bills and Jets are doing all they can to make a postseason push as well. So nothing will come easy, especially within the division.
Expectations of approximately eight to nine wins seem reasonable right now, although chemistry and health will play a big role once the campaign gets underway.
Prediction: Dolphins finish 9-7 in 2014.