Thanks to the NFL's scheduling formula, the Miami Dolphins' opponents for the 2011 season are now known with the conclusion of the 2010 regular season.
The formula creates a 16-game schedule as follows:
- Six games against the three division opponents (two each, one home, one away)
- Four games against one AFC division (two home, two away)
- Four games against one NFC division (two home, two away)
- Two games against same-placing teams from the other two divisions in the conference (one home, one away)
In addition to their six standard divisional games in 2011, the Dolphins will face the AFC West, the NFC East and the third-place finishers from the AFC North and AFC South.
Their schedule will include home games against the following teams:
As well as away games against the following teams:
Now, here are some general observations and insights about the Dolphins' 2011 opponents:
- For the second season in a row, the Dolphins will have non-divisional AFC East games against the Raiders and Browns.
- The opponents' collective record in 2010 was 103-105, for a pretty poor winning percentage of .495. Only four of the Dolphins' 14 opponents (Patriots, Jets, Chiefs, Eagles) made the playoffs in 2010.
- The Dolphins face four of the top five offenses from 2010 (San Diego first, Philadelphia second, Houston third, New York Giants fifth). Their opponents' average offensive rank in 2010 is 11th.
- The Dolphins face three top-10 defenses from 2010 (San Diego first, New York Jets third, New York Giants seventh) but also the three worst defenses from 2010 (Houston 30th, Washington 31st, Denver 32nd). Their opponents' average defensive rank in 2010 is 18th.
- Projected starting quarterbacks to face the Dolphins in 2010 include Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo, twice), Mark Sanchez (N.Y. Jets, twice), Tom Brady (New England, twice), Kyle Orton/Tim Tebow (Denver), Michael Vick (Philadelphia), Matt Schaub (Houston), Matt Cassel (Kansas City), Philip Rivers (San Diego), Tony Romo (Dallas), Eli Manning (N.Y. Giants) and Colt McCoy (Cleveland). Oakland and Washington remain too difficult to determine.
All in all, this is not a terrible schedule for the Dolphins. While you can't know how good teams will be in 2011 compared to 2010, it's nice to see a sub-.500 winning percentage for their opponents next season.
Assuming Miami can shake the monkey off its back at Sun Life Stadium, I see a handful of winnable games at home. The Dolphins get the benefit of avoiding potential cold-weather games in Philadelphia and Washington, as well as the thin air of Denver.
The road is a bit of a different story, with four non-divisional away games against, what I expect to be, high-powered offenses in Dallas, Kansas City, New York and San Diego.
In all, the Dolphins could be looking at six of their eight away games against playoff contenders in 2011.
As we wait to see who will be leading the Dolphins out of the tunnel for these 16 games, keep visiting for all your Miami Dolphins coverage this offseason!
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.