The Miami Dolphins will look to get off to a fast start in the AFC East in 2014.
The NFL released the 2014 regular-season schedule on Wednesday, and for the first time since 1998 the Dolphins will open the season with consecutive games against division rivals. The season gets started at Sun Life Stadium against the defending AFC East champion New England Patriots and then the Dolphins hit the road to face the Buffalo Bills, who swept the season series in 2013.
The Dolphins avoid a West Coast trip but will travel to London in 2014, where they’ll meet the Oakland Raiders, who will serve as the host team in the NFL’s International Series game on Sept. 28.
The Dolphins do not face their other AFC East rival, the New York Jets, for the first time until Dec. 1, the lone Monday night game on their 2014 schedule.
Three of the Dolphins’ final four games are at home, including their season finale against the Jets on Dec. 28.
There is the possibility that some games could shift times. For the first time, flexible scheduling can be applied twice during Weeks 5-10. In Weeks 11-17, a Sunday afternoon game could be moved to Sunday night, in which case the Sunday night game would move to the afternoon.
Here’s a closer look at the Dolphins’ 2014 regular-season schedule (opponent 2013 record in parenthesis):
WEEK 1: vs. New England Patriots (12-4), Sept. 7, 1 p.m.
Tom Brady & Co. again visit Sun Life Stadium, where they lost 24-20 in Week 15 last season. Recently acquired Michael Thomas intercepted Brady’s fourth-down pass in the end zone with two seconds left to help Miami snap a streak of seven consecutive losses to the Patriots. Brady owns a 17-7 record vs. Miami. He has thrown 42 career scoring passes against the Dolphins and been intercepted 20 times.
WEEK 2: at Buffalo Bills (6-10), Sept. 14, 1 p.m.
The Dolphins went to Buffalo last season knowing they needed one victory in their final two games to clinch a playoff spot. They didn’t get it. Miami allowed a season-worst seven sacks and managed just 103 total yards and six first downs at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
WEEK 3: vs. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5), Sept. 21, 4:25 p.m.
The Chiefs enjoyed a turnaround last season, when they earned a wild-card playoff berth in their first year under former Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid. The Dolphins took a 16-12 lead in the All-time series by winning the last meeting, a 31-3 victory at Arrowhead Stadium. The teams’ most famous battle occurred on Christmas Day 1971, when Garo Yepremian’s 37-yard field goal roughly midway through the second overtime gave Miami a 27-24 victory in a divisional playoff game. Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert, signed as a free agent this offseason, will face his former team for the first time. He played six seasons with the Chiefs.
WEEK 4: at Oakland Raiders (4-12) in London, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.
The two former AFL foes will meet at London’s Wembley Stadium. Miami trails the All-time series 19-16-1 but has won four straight meetings and seven of the last eight. Each team will have their bye the week following the game, the 11th time since 2000 the Dolphins have had their bye week in Week 7 or earlier, including every year since 2008.
WEEK 5: BYE
WEEK 6: vs. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1), Oct. 12, 1 p.m.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin faces the team from which he came. He joined Green Bay’s coaching staff in 2003 and was the Packersâ offensive coordinator from 2007-11. The Dolphins and Packers last played in 2010, when Dan Carpenter kicked a 44-yard field goal to give Miami a 23-20 overtime decision at Green Bay.
WEEK 7: at Chicago Bears (8-8), Oct. 19, 1 p.m.
The Bears shut out the Dolphins in their last meeting, 16-0 at Sun Life Stadium in 2010. Miami managed just 187 yards offense and a single third-down conversion while enduring their second home shutout in 40 years. Miami last played at Soldier Field in 2006, when it beat Chicago 31 -13.
WEEK 8: at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12), Oct. 26, 1 p.m.
The annual preseason opponents will meet in the regular season for the seventh time. Miami won the last meeting 24-3 at Sun Life Stadium in 2012. That was Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne’s first game against his former team. He recently re-signed with the Jaguars. The Dolphins also prevailed 14-10 in their last visit to Jacksonville in 2009. The Dolphins suffered the worst defeat in team history on Jan. 15, 2000, when they lost 62-7 in Jacksonville in an AFC divisional playoff game.
WEEK 9: vs. San Diego Chargers (9-7), Nov. 2, 1 p.m.
This will be the second straight year the Chargers visit Sun Life Stadium. They lost to the Dolphins 20-16 in Week 11 when Brent Grimes broke up Philip Rivers’ final pass in the end zone as time expired. The two teams always will be connected by the 1982 playoff game in which San Diego won 41-38 in overtime at the Orange Bowl.
The Lions won the last meeting, a 34-27 decision at Sun Life Stadium in 2010. The Dolphins blew a late 10-point lead and finished the season with a 1-7 home record. Miami, who leads the All-time series 7-3, last played at Detroit in 2006 when it prevailed 27-10. Former Dolphins running back Reggie Bush rushed for 1,006 yards (4.5 ypc.) last season for Detroit. Dolphins safety Louis Delmas and tackle Jason Fox, both of whom signed as a free agent this offseason, will go against their former team. Delmas played his first five seasons with the Lions, and Fox spent the past four years with Detroit.
WEEK 11: vs. Buffalo Bills (6-10), Nov. 13, 8:25 p.m.
The Dolphins lost both games to their division rivals last season. The first meeting was a 23 -21 Buffalo victory in Week 7 at Sun Life Stadium. The Bills blew an early 14-point lead in that game before ex-Dolphin Dan Carpenter kicked the game-winning 31-yard field goal with 33 seconds left. The game marked Thad Lewis’ second start after being promoted from the practice squad to replace injured EJ Manuel. It was the Dolphins’ third straight loss after a 3-0 start.
WEEK 12: at Denver Broncos (13-3), Nov. 23, 4:25 p.m.
The Dolphins will head to Mile High Stadium to take on Peyton Manning and the defending AFC champions. It’ll be the first time the teams have met since the Broncos won 18-15 in overtime on Matt Prater’s 52-yard field at Miami in 2011. In that game, Tim Tebow made his first start of the year and threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:44 of the fourth quarter to force overtime. Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno, signed as a free agent this offseason, will be going against his former team. He rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 TDs with Denver last season.
WEEK 13: at New York Jets (8-8), Dec. 1, 8:30 p.m.
The Dolphins earned a sweet 23-3 victory at MetLife Stadium in Week 13 last season. Ryan Tannehill threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns, Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace caught touchdown passes and Miami converted two turnovers into 10 points. Miami’s effort led to Jets QB Geno Smith being booed loudly at times while going 4 for 10 for 29 yards with an interception and an 8.3 quarterback rating.
WEEK 14: vs. Baltimore Ravens (8-8), Dec. 7, 1 p.m.
The Ravens will visit Sun Life Stadium for the second year in a row. They defeated Miami 26-23 in Week 5 last season. Baltimore sacked Ryan Tannehill six times, including Elvis Dumervil’s tackle for a 5-yard loss in the final minute to push Miami to the edge of field-goal range. Two plays later, Caleb Sturgis missed a 57-yard try.
WEEK 15: at New England Patriots (12-4), Dec. 14, 1 p.m.
The Dolphins appeared primed to snap a six-game losing streak to New England by allowing the Patriots just 59 yards while taking a 17-7 halftime lead at Gillette Stadium in Week 8 last season. But New England rallied despite a subpar effort by Tom Brady (13 of 22). His 116 yards passing were the second fewest in game he played most of the way since 2006.
WEEK 16: vs. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1), Dec. 21, 1 p.m.
The participants in Super Bowl VIII will meet for the first time in four seasons. Miami won the last meeting 14-10 at Minnesota in 2010, when Brett Favre was intercepted three times and the Dolphins defense stopped Adrian Peterson on a fourth-and-goal from the 1. The Dolphins dominated Super Bowl VIII, winning 24-3 behind Larry Csonka’s 145 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
WEEK 17: vs. New York Jets (8-8), Dec. 28, 1 p.m.
The Jets return to Sun Life Stadium, where they dealt Miami a devastating 20-7 loss in the season finale last season. The Dolphins would have secured a playoff spot with a win. Jets quarterback Geno Smith, who was relieved during the season’s earlier meeting, led three long scoring drives, ran for a touchdown and threw for 190 yards. Rookie Dee Milner had two interceptions and veteran Ed Reed had one to prevent a Miami comeback.
BEST NON-DIVISIONAL RIVAL HOME GAME
Although Kansas City was a playoff team last year, so were the Packers. Veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers will lead the Pack into Sun Life Stadium against his former offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin. Rodgers will be returning from a 2013 season in which he suffered a broken collarbone, so he’ll likely be extra motivated to have a double-check-type year.
The trip to Denver figures to be a tough test for any team. Knowshon Moreno’s presence adds a little more spice to the game as he goes against the team for which he ran for 1,038 yards in 2013. Peyton Manning always adds interest and intrigue to a matchup. The future Hall of Famer will be a formidable foe foe the Dolphins defense. It’ll be interesting to see if defensive rushers Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and, perhaps, Dion Jordan can get to Manning.
MOST DANGEROUS OPPONENT
The Bills defeated Miami twice last season and could be on the upswing under second-year coach Doug Marrone and second-year quarterback EJ Manuel. Miami needs to be thinking about sweeping Buffalo (and the New York Jets) to further its playoff prospects and not just splitting the respective meetings.
Miami has six games against 2013 playoff teams — New England (twice), Denver, Kansas City, San Diego and Green Bay — but it’s always dangerous to try and figure out strength-of- schedule in the topsy-turvy world of the NFL. Some teams will disappoint, others surely will surprise.
The Dolphins need to concentrate on posting a winning record in the division and establishing dominance at Sun Life Stadium. Those two things would go a long way in helping Miami return to the postseason for the first time in six seasons.