Now that you’ve had time to digest the Miami Dolphins 2017 schedule I want to make you feel great about it. I want to lift your spirits because you see it’s not an easy schedule. I want to motivate you and energize you about the grand possibilities of what is ahead.
But I cannot.
Instead I’m going to feed you truth. Sobering. Truth.
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And the truth is the Dolphins might be a better team in 2017 than they were a year ago when they surprised everyone with a 10-6 record. They may have a more cohesive and experienced offense. After next week’s draft they might have the makings of a better defense -- because they’re to draft for defense, folks..
But having said all that, the Dolphins might still not have as good a record in 2017.
They could be better. And get worse results.
Why do I say this?
Well, not because I’m a bad guy and want to send you into your weekend having fed you a depression sandwich. It’s because the new schedule compared to last year’s schedule says so.
Last year’s schedule was, well, a fortuitous one for the Dolphins to have. They played only six games against teams with winning records. They played only four games against teams that made the playoffs.
The Dolphins played five games against teams that ended up firing their head coach.
It was a good schedule that offered opportunities.
And the Dolphins took advantage. They won all five of those games against those doomed coaches -- two against Buffalo and one each against the Chargers, Rams and 49ers.
The Dolphins were 9-1 against teams with losing records.
They took advantage.
But when they faced quality opposition, it was a different story. The Dolphins won one game against a team with a winning record last year. They were 1-5 in games against teams with .500 records or better.
And if you want to drill down on that 9-1 record against those losing teams, it becomes obvious the Dolphins were winning on coaching and will and the ability to not beat themselves. Many NFL teams don’t get beat, but rather they lose. They beat themselves.
The Dolphins didn’t beat themselves. And they took advantage of teams that did in some games -- particularly one at Buffalo.
In fact, the Dolphins had to go to overtime in two games against losing teams before coming out on top. And they had only one game against losing teams that they won convincingly -- by more than a touchdown.
So while I do not diminish the facts of last year’s fine, surprising fun season ... I recognize it suggested the Dolphins were very much a team taking advantage of some favorable circumstances.
Which leads me to this year’s schedule.
These Dolphins will be 0-0 at the beginning of the season. Everything they accomplished last year is gone. Erased. Deleted. That’s coach Adam Gase’s message to the team now.
Still, like last year, I assume there will be some favorable circumstances coming Miami’s way this year as well. There always are when life gets involved.
But on paper, this schedule doesn’t offer the openings of last year’s. For instance:
There’s nothing fortunate about playing the four Super Bowl teams from the last two years and the defending AFC and NFC champions three times -- the Patriots twice and Atlanta Falcons once.
There’s nothing fortunate about having to travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens on a Thursday night. The Ravens beat the Dolphins last year in Baltimore. Handled them. This year the game is in the middle of the week when home teams have a greater advantage than usual.
By the way, the Dolphins and Ravens have played the past four seasons and Baltimore has won three of those.
Traveling to Los Angeles the second week of the season, then New York the third week of the season, then London the fourth week of the season will be no easy task. The Dolphins will log approximately 15,702 miles (as the crow flies) and 32 hours of flying time those three weeks.
And they’ll not have the bye to follow the London trip.
Last year the Dolphins had three west coast games but simply stayed in San Diego the week after that game and prior to playing the Rams. So that saved wear on players.
There is no such likely rallying point where the Dolphins can hold up this year and reduce their flying.
The Dolphins will enjoy no hot weather game advantage this year. Yes, they open at Hard Rock on Sept. 10 but the extreme humidity of that time of year in South Florida will come as no surprise to Tampa Bay.
Also, the NFL is making the Dolphins travel to New England in November and Buffalo in December. So those teams get their cold weather advantage, such as it is. But the Patriots don’t visit Miami until November and the Bills don’t visit until December so there is no reciprocal warm weather advantage for the Dolphins against these divisional rivals.
And then there’s the lovely Christmas eve visit to Kansas City. The Chiefs won 12 games last season and made the playoffs for the second consecutive year, but did you know they are 18-6 at Arrowhead Stadium the past three seasons?
Look, this post isn’t meant to cast aspersions on the accomplishments of 2016. Personally, I loved last season. This also isn’t about predicting doom for 2017 before we’re even within three months of training camp.
This is, however, to let you know that even if the Dolphins improve this year, the schedule and opponents on it have something to say about what’s going to happen.
So don’t be surprised if it isn’t all sunshine and daffodils.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero