The Dolphins begin their 2016 season with the NFL’s longest domestic road trip (Miami to Seattle) against a formidable team in one of the league’s most intimidating venues. Then they come home and leave six days later to play on the road against a New England Patriots juggernaut that has won the past seven AFC East titles.
Welcome to your first NFL head coaching job, Adam Gase.
It’s difficult to craft a more arduous first two weeks of a schedule than the one given to the Dolphins on Thursday. And it makes it even more difficult for the Dolphins to reverse their history of the past decade; they’re 11-22 in September since 2006.
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The end of the season is also full of landmines, with the Dolphins’ final four games featuring a Dec. 11 home game against an Arizona team that went 13-3 a year ago, road games against the Jets and the Bills (who both swept the Dolphins last season, with the Bills winning the two games by 43 points combined and the Jets winning the two by 31) and a Jan. 1 home game against New England.
Now, the good news: The Dolphins’ Sept. 25 home opener is against a Cleveland team that has struggled mightily in recent years.
Also, the Dolphins don’t leave home between Sept. 30 and Nov. 11.
During that span, they play home games against Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, then have their bye week (Week 8 of the season), then host the Jets.
Though the Dolphins naturally have two home preseason games, they asked the NFL to schedule them for road games early in the regular season to give them extra time to finish major renovations to Sun Life Stadium. The NFL obliged.
▪ The Dolphins play three games in the Pacific Time Zone, and the NFL granted the team’s wish to have two of them on consecutive weeks: Nov. 13 at San Diego and Nov. 20 at the Los Angeles Rams. The Dolphins are expected to stay in Southern California to practice the week in between those games.
▪ The Dolphins were given two prime time games, but both will be televised nationally only on NFL Network: Thursday, Sept. 29, at Cincinnati and Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Jets, with both starting at 8:25 p.m.
CBS and NBC each will air five of the NFL Network cablecasts, but the Dolphins’ two appearances aren’t included among those 10 games.
▪ All Dolphins home games will begin at 1 p.m., though the league reserves the right to change start times if it wishes.
▪ Besides the prime time Jets game in New Jersey, the Dolphins have another Saturday game: at 1 p.m. Dec. 24 against the Bills, because the NFL prefers to play most of its games that weekend on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas.
But the NFL will challenge the NBA’s domain on Christmas by scheduling two games on that day: Baltimore-Pittsburgh at 4:30 p.m. on NFL Network and Denver-Kansas City at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.
This marks the first time the Dolphins will play two Saturday games in the same regular season since 1970.
From a league perspective, a few other schedule highlights:
▪ Denver and Carolina open the season on Sept. 8 in Colorado, marking the first time the NFL has scheduled a Super Bowl rematch as the Thursday night opener.
▪ The NBC Sunday Night Football opener on Sept. 11 is New England-Arizona.
▪ ESPN’s opening Monday Night Football doubleheader: Pittsburgh-Washington and Los Angeles-San Francisco.
▪ The Thanksgiving lineup: Minnesota-Detroit at 12:30, Washington-Dallas at 4:30 and Pittsburgh-Indianapolis at 8:30.
Sept. 11: at Seattle, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Sept. 18: at New England, 1 p.m., CBS
Sept. 25: vs. Cleveland, 1 p.m., CBS
Sept. 29: at Cincinnati, 8:25 p.m., NFLN
Oct. 9: vs. Tennessee, 1 p.m., CBS
Oct. 16: vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m., CBS
Oct. 23: vs. Buffalo, 1 p.m., CBS
Nov. 6: vs. N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m., CBS
Nov. 13: at San Diego, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Nov. 20: at L.A. Rams, 4:05 p.m., FOX
Nov. 27: vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m., FOX
Dec. 4: at Baltimore, 1 p.m., CBS
Dec. 11: vs. Arizona, 1 p.m., FOX
Dec. 17: at N.Y. Jets, 8:25 p.m., NFLN
Dec. 24: at Buffalo, 1 p.m., CBS
Jan. 1: vs. New England, 1 p.m., CBS