The Miami Dolphins a major prime-time draw again? Yes.
Headed for a historic Christmas Eve game in Kansas City that harkens back to the 1971 Christmas Day playoff that remains to this day the NFL’s longest game? Absolutely.
Difficult? You bet.
That’s the take away from the Miami Dolphins’ 2017 regular-season schedule that was released Thursday by the NFL. The Dolphins will open at home and finish their season at home.
The team, which is having Phase III construction at Hard Rock Stadium now, will be ready for the start of the NFL season and proof of that is that it will play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the NFL’s opening weekend on Sept. 10. So the season opener is also the home opener.
The Dolphins will also finish the 2017 season at home against the Buffalo Bills. That game will be on Dec. 31. That suggests the Dolphins will travel to Buffalo early in the season, right?
The Dolphins and Bills are going to enjoy late December together as they play one another in two of the final three weeks. The Dolphins will visit Buffalo on Dec. 17.
The Dolphins swept the Bills and New York Jets in 2016 but were swept by the New England Patriots. Now we know when they will face their division rivals besides the Bills:
The Dolphins will visit the Patriots on Nov. 26 and host New England on Dec. 11. They’ll travel to MetLife Stadium to play the New York Jets on Sept. 24 and host the Jets at Hard Rock on Oct. 22.
The Dolphins are an “it” team now. That means networks like the Dolphins again after they improved to 10-6 last season and made the playoffs. And that means prime-time appearances.
This season the Dolphins will have four prime-time games. They will be playing the Raiders, Patriots, Panthers and Ravens in prime time.
And here’s the interesting thing: The Dolphins will be on prime time in three consecutive weeks. They play at Baltimore on a Thursday night on Oct. 26, then host Oakland on “Sunday Night Football” on Nov. 5, then travel to Carolina for a Monday night game on Nov. 13.
The other prime-time game will be the Dec. 11 matchup when the Dolphins host the Patriots on “Monday Night Football.”
The Dolphins will be playing in London at 9:30 a.m. eastern time on Oct. 1 against the New Orleans Saints. The game is one of the Dolphins’ “home games” in 2017, so there will be only seven games at Hard Rock Stadium.
What was not known until now is that the Dolphins requested and were granted a request to forgo their bye following their nearly 10-hour, 4,500-mile flight home. The entire trip for the Dolphins will include 20 hours in the air, covering 9,000 miles.
The Dolphins, playing in London for the fourth time since 2007, have always had a bye week following the game in Britain.
This year, however, the team decided to play the very next week in order to save the bye for later in the year. That bye week will come for Miami in Week 11 or the weekend of Nov. 18-20.
The London game will be Miami’s fourth game of the season and third consecutive travel game because the team is at the Los Angles Chargers on Sept. 17 and at the Jets on Sept. 24 before heading to London.
The Dolphins are obviously thinking the long trip will have no ill effects on the team’s next game against the Tennessse Titans on Oct. 8, although Tennessee beat Miami 30-17 last season.
The Dolphins believe that in 2016 they recovered well enough from a trip to Seattle and after a West Coast trip to San Diego and Los Angeles to make the later bye the more profitable approach.
The Dolphins lost at New England the week after they traveled to Seattle in 2016. And they beat San Francisco at home the week after returning from Los Angeles.
It must be said, however, that Miami to London and back is further than a West Coast trip for the Dolphins in the continental United States.
The Dolphins play both Super Bowl teams from the past two years. They play at Atlanta, which is opening the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, on Oct. 15, they play at Carolina on Nov. 13, they host Denver on Dec. 3 and also have their usual home-and-home series with the Patriots.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero