Your impression of the Dolphins' schedule probably depends on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty person.
On the one hand, the team never has to travel any farther west than New Orleans. That makes for a lot of short road trips and no jet lag. On the other hand, the Dolphins’s opponents have a combined win percentage of .519, seventh toughest in the league. Plus, three of their first four games are on the road. Three of their five December games are in cold-weather environments. So, maybe the glass is looking emptier all the time.
Still, there is a viable path to a winning record. Let’s go to the schedule.
Sunday Sept. 8 at Cleveland Browns
The Dolphins open on the road, but at a team with a rookie coach and a second-year quarterback. They should build some confidence. RESULT: WIN.
Sunday Sep. 15 at Indianapolis Colts
This is a tough early road test versus a young playoff team from last year. That said, the Dolphins gave the Colts all they could handle last year, at it could be argued they’ve done more in the offseason to improve. RESULT: WIN
Sunday Sep. 22 vs. Atlanta Falcons
Miami has a tendency toward early-season letdowns at home, and their home opener is against the defending NFC South champs. RESULT: LOSS
Monday, Sep. 30 at New Orleans Saints
Their confidence shaken, the Dolphins could well wilt under the national spotlight versus a resurgent Saints team. RESULT: LOSS
Sunday Oct. 6 vs. Baltimore Ravens
This is a tough one to call, and it could well be one of two or three crucial turning points of the season. The Ravens are weakened, but they’re still the reigning champs. If they win, the Dolphins could be in great shape for playoff contention. But that may be asking too much of the team at this stage. RESULT: LOSS
Sunday Oct. 20 vs. Buffalo Bills
What’s a better cure for a three-game losing streak than a bye? The Bills. RESULT: WIN
Sunday Oct. 27 at New England Patriots
The Patriots are still the Patriots until someone knocks them in the mud. This won’t be the week for the Dolphins to do that. RESULT: LOSS
Thursday Oct. 31 vs. Cincinnati Bengals (prime time)
Here’s another fork in the road for the Dolphins. Playing on three days’ rest will be rough, and the Bengals have a team on the rise. That said, Miami has some good history on Halloween, and the Dolphins could easily scare up a victory. RESULT: WIN
Monday Nov. 11 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (prime time)
The Buccaneers have improved themselves – most notably with the addition of Darrell Revis – but a short road trip, a mini-bye after a Thursday game and a confidence-building win against the Bengals should carry over. RESULT: WIN
Sunday Nov. 17 vs. San Diego Chargers
West Coast teams traveling to Miami don’t beat the Dolphins. They just don’t. RESULT: WIN
Sunday Nov. 24 vs. Carolina Panthers
Miami keeps the good times rolling by rolling over overmatched Carolina. RESULT: WIN
Sunday Dec. 1 at New York Jets
The Jets should be mired in the cellar of the AFC East by the time they get their first look at the Dolphins. It’s a great time for Miami to travel to New York, and a great recipe for a five-game winning streak. RESULT: WIN
Sunday Dec. 8 at Steelers
This is where it gets interesting. In a game that could easily be shifted to prime time, the Dolphins and Steelers should be fighting for wild card spots. If the game was in Miami, I’d be tempted to give Miami the nod. As it is, the Pittsburgh faithful will be ready, and the hostile Heinz Field environment will be too much to overcome. RESULT: LOSS
Sunday Dec. 15 vs. New England Patriots
In another close game, the Dolphins will miss out on the chance to dethrone the Patriots as AFC East champs. RESULT: LOSS
Sunday Dec. 22 at Buffalo Bills
Luckily for the Dolphins’ playoff chances, they finish the season versus the Bills … RESULT: WIN
Sunday Dec. 29 New York Jets
… and the Jets. RESULT: WIN
If the chips fall like this, the Dolphins will have a 10-6 record. A solid conference record should put them in good shape for a wild-card berth.