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By: Kevin Nogle
The NFL released the 2022 regular season schedule last night, slating all 272 contests across the 18-week season. The Miami Dolphins start the season hosting the New England Patriots and end it hosting the New York Jets. What else happens in between? This morning we will take a look at the immediate reactions to Miami’s 2022 schedule.
Before we take a look at the parts of the schedule that stand out, it is time to review the schedule. The NFL schedule is built using a rotation process by divisions. The Dolphins have their normal home-and-home series between their AFC East rivals, hosting and visiting the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, and New York Jets. The AFC East matches up with the AFC North and the NFC North this year, giving Miami home games against the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings and away games at the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, and Detroit Lions. Each team then faces the team that finished in the same position as they did the previous season from the two conference divisions they are not scheduled to face (in this case the AFC South and AFC West) as well as the team that finished in the same position from a division from the other conference (this year, the AFC East faces the NFC West for this extra game). That gives Miami a home again against the Houston Texans and away games at the Los Angeles Chargers and San Francisco 49ers.
How did those games shake out on the schedule? Here is what was released for Miami last night:
The Dolphins start with the Patriots, the Ravens, the Bills, and the Bengals. That is a combined 39-29 record, with two division champs and a wildcard team in the first four games. The Ravens were the worst of the group, finishing at 8-9 last year, but are always a team that can beat up on the Dolphins. In the last 12 meetings, including a playoff matchup, with the Ravens, the Dolphins have only won three times, though they did come away with a 22-10 win last year. If the Dolphins are going to prove they are ready to be a playoff contender, they may have to do it as soon as the season starts.
It also should be noted the Dolphins have opened their season the last two years against the Patriots, but both of those games were in New England. Miami went 1-1 in those games, but that loss in 2020 was also the last time they lost to the Patriots, having one the second meeting in 2020 and swept New England last year. Can Miami extend the winning streak to four straight with a Week 1 victory? According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Miami opens as a three-point favorite over the Patriots.
Early Thursday Night Football
The Week 4 game against the Bengals is Miami’s Thursday Night Football game for the season. A showdown between Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa, the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, takes center stage. While the game has already been highlighted for being in the tough first stretch of games for the Dolphins, it does have a benefit. The Dolphins get their Thursday game out of the way early in the year. While it could be better if Miami were to have the game at home, having an early-season Thursday game should negate some of the concerns of a short week between Week 3’s Sunday game and Week 4’s Thursday game. Getting the Thursday game early in the season should help the Dolphins simply because they will not have as many collisions and snaps played as they would if the game were later in the season.
The early Thursday game also gives Miami a mini-bye early in the season. With 10 days between Week 4 and Week 5, the Dolphins will have plenty of time to rest and recover after the first (nearly) quarter of the season.
Limited Primetime Exposure
The Dolphins only landed two primetime games in 2022, the Thursday Night Football appearance in Week 4 and a Week 7 Sunday Night Football game against the Steelers. The Dolphins, after two decades of struggles and mediocrity, simply do not seem to be a priority for the league to get into the key matchups each week. The team still has a large fan base nationwide, but they need to prove themselves a true contender if they want to add to their primetime exposure.
Perfect Season Celebration
The Sunday Night Football game will be the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Dolphins’ Perfect Season. Still the only team to not lose a game on their way to a Super Bowl championship, Miami’s 1972 undefeated team will get the national spotlight.
…But So Will The Brian Flores Lawsuit
I said this a couple of times yesterday, but it deserves to be reiterated. It is a little surprising that the league went ahead and scheduled the Dolphins and Steelers in a Sunday Night Football game, creating a situation where the Brian Flores lawsuit can take center stage. The former Dolphins head coach who is suing the league and several teams for racial discrimination, is an assistant coach with the Steelers now. The relationship between Flores and the Dolphins and the lawsuit now seem set to be a major storyline for this game. The league could have buried the Dolphins and Steelers somewhere in a Sunday afternoon. Instead, they seem to be either ready to face it head-on, or they are hoping the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Perfect Season will drown out everything else.
The Dolphins had a Week 14 bye week last year, which felt really late in the season. With the Week 4 Thursday night game and the 10 days until their Week 5 game, the Dolphins’ bye week seems perfectly situated in Week 11 this year. They will play four games, get 10 days off, play another six games, get 14 days off, then play seven games to finish the year. It feels like the season is fairly well broken up by their potential rest periods.
Laremy Tunsil returns
The Texans played in Miami last year, but Tunsil was on injured reserve already and did not play in the game. That means Week 12 would be Tunsil’s first time back in Miami since the Dolphins traded him to the Texans in August 2019. That trade is still paying dividends to Miami, who hold a first-round pick from the 49ers next year as part of the lineage of the Tunsil trade. There will definitely be discussion of the trade as this game rolls around.
The league potentially took care of the Dolphins, who will travel the most miles of any team not leaving the country this year. That travel distance could be lessened should the team decide they will take advantage of their Week 13 and Week 14 games both in California. Miami will play the 49ers in Week 13, then the Chargers in Week 14. The team could decide to stay in California for the week, finding somewhere willing to allow them to practice so they do not have to fly back to Miami, only to fly back to California a few days later. They do not have to do it, but the league set up the possibility of a long California trip in the middle of the year.
Christmas in Miami
Christmas day is a Sunday this year, with the league deciding they will put three stand-alone games on the schedule for the holiday, with the majority of the games being played on Saturday. The Dolphins will host the Packers in the early game of the Christmas day triple-header, giving Miami another national exposure slot despite only having the two primetime games.
In Week 13, Miami will be at the 49ers. In Week 14, they will be at the Chargers. In Week 15, they all be at the Bills. In Week 17, they will be at the Patriots. The one home game during this five week stretch? The Packers on Christmas. That is a stretch facing a combined record of 53-32 from 2021, with four of the five teams having made the playoffs last year, while the Chargers missed the postseason (like the Dolphins) by a half game. It is a tough proud as the team comes down the stretch and hopes to make the postseason.
The game between the Bengals and Dolphins was already highlighted for the Burrow versus Tagovailoa matchup. That is not the only 2020 NFL Draft quarterback matchup, however, as the Week 14 Chargers game will feature Tagovailoa and Los Angeles’ Justin Herbert, the sixth pick in the Draft, one spot after Miami picked Tagovailoa. The Dolphins will also host the Philadelphia Eagles this year, potentially providing a Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts (2020 53rd overall pick) matchup, but that will be in preseason game three and likely neither starter will play much, if any, of the game.
The Bills and Patriots weeks have been discussed in the tough start and tough ending to the season. The Jets have been skipped thus far. There is some thought that the Jets are ready to take a step forward, especially after the NFL Draft, but a step forward for a team that was 4-13 last year and has not beaten another AFC East team in two years, may not be moving the team into playoff contention. The Jets have to earn respect still (not that the Dolphins do not have to do the same, but at least the Dolphins have had winning seasons each of the last two years). They need to be highlighted, no matter how their 2022 season turns out because (a) the Dolphins will still play them twice, (b) the MetLife Takeover date is now known in Week 5, and (c) the Dolphins get to end the season against the Jets in Miami. If the Dolphins have survived the season and are in competition for a playoff berth, having the Jets to end the season could be a bonus for them. No game in the NFL is easy, but the Jets are not the Bills or the Patriots, so it could be easier than what Miami may have faced in Week 18. The game could be flexed to Saturday should the league want to highlight a playoff scenario from the contest.
The Dolphins last played the Jets in the season finale in 2014 – with New York winning that game 37-24. Miami has played the Bills or the Patriots to end the year in each of the last seven seasons – it seems about time Miami finished the year against New York.
Originally posted on The Phinsider