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By: Kevin Nogle
The slate of opponents for the Dolphins’ 2023 schedule will be solidified this week, with two home and one road matchup to be determined.
The Miami Dolphins have a lot riding on their 2022 season finale this weekend. While a win over the New York Jets and a New England Patriots loss to the Buffalo Bills would push the Dolphins into the playoffs, this weekend’s results will also determine Miami’s 2023 regular season opponents. How Miami – and the rest of the AFC East division – finish in the standings will lock in three of Miami’s scheduled opponents for next season.
The NFL uses a divisional rotation to set the opponents for each year’s schedule. This season, the AFC East was pitted against the AFC North and NFC North. When you add in the AFC East annual home-and-home series, that accounts for 14 of the 17 games each team in the division plays. The other three matchups were determined by the divisional standings, with each AFC East team playing the teams that finished in the same relative spot in their respective divisional standings from the AFC South, AFC West, and NFC West.
Next year, the AFC East will be paired with the AFC West and NFC East, with the three remaining games coming from the AFC North, AFC South, and NFC South. How Miami finishes in Week 18 will decide who they play from each of those three divisions. The inter-conference matchups rotate which conference is the host team each year as the odd-numbered 17th game. In 2022, that game was a home game for the NFC, so in 2023, it will be an AFC home game, giving the Dolphins nine games at Hard Rock Stadium.
Miami’s current matchups for 2023 are:
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Las Vegas Raiders
New York Giants
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers
The Dolphins are currently in third place in the AFC East. They could finish there, or move up to the second place spot should they make the playoffs. If they lose to the Jets on Sunday, they would fall into the fourth-place position.
In the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars will decide the division champion in their Week 18 game, with the loser sliding into the second position. If Miami makes the playoffs, that would put the Titans/Jaguars loser on the docket for the Dolphins at home. If Miami wins on Sunday, but the Patriots come away with a victory as well, Miami would host the Colts in 2023. If the Jets beat the Dolphins, Miami would welcome the Texans to Hard Rock Stadium at some point next year.
In the AFC North, the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens both could still win the division. If the league decides that the Bills at Bengals game that was suspended following the injury to Damar Hamlin, the Bengals would clinch the AFC North. If that game is resumed in a Week 19 type of scenario, then the Ravens could clinch the AFC North with two losses from the Bengals. The cancellation of the game seems to be the most likely scenario right now, meaning the Dolphins, should they move into the playoffs, would visit the Ravens in 2023. The third- and fourth-place teams in the AFC North face each other this weekend, as the Cleveland Browns visit the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team that wins that game will clinch the third place position, while the losing team would fall to fourth. Miami, in 2023, would visit the team that wins if the Dolphins and Patriots both win on Sunday, and would face the team that loses should the Dolphins also lose.
For the NFC South opponent, Miami could host the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, or New Orleans Saints in 2023. The Saints host the Panthers in Week 18, while the Falcons are hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons could find themselves in the third- or fourth-position after the Week 18 schedule is played, while the Panthers could be second, third, or fourth. The Saints can finish as either the second- or third-placed team.
While 2022 and the playoff possibility are the top priority, Sunday also sets up Miami for the 2023 season.
Originally posted on The Phinsider