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If the NFL schedule is any indication – and it usually is – the Miami Dolphins have earned their way back into the national spotlight.
They are back on Sunday night football. Back on Monday night football. Back in prime time a total of four times, twice at home. This is the most prime time appearances the Dolphins have had since 2004 – that’s 13 years – and it clearly shows a change in perception and expectations after the 10-6 playoff season of a year ago.
While this guarantees nothing in terms of wins and losses, it is a nice reward for a franchise that has produced so many memorable prime time moments through the years.
Now they’ll get a chance to produce some more.
First, there are a team-record three-straight prime time games beginning in late October – a Thursday night game at Baltimore, a Sunday night home game against the Raiders and a Monday night game at Carolina. No slouches in that group.
Then comes the capper, a Monday night game at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 11 against the Patriots. Think the place will be rockin’ that night? Got to admit I’m already looking forward to it.
Some other observations are in order now that we have dates and times to go with opponents and locations.
• Glad to see the Dolphins opening at home, certainly after last season that opened with two of the toughest matchups you can imagine, at Seattle and at New England. Again, no guarantees, but it’s nice to start the season in front of your own fans.
• I also like the fact that the Dolphins requested that the bye week not immediately follow the Saints game in London on Oct. 1. That’s too early in the season to take a week off, even after the long trip across the Atlantic. The Dolphins were granted their request, the bye coming instead on Nov. 20 after playing 10 games. That’s about where you want it.
• A strange scheduling quirk: The Dolphins will play the Patriots twice in three weeks and the Bills twice in three weeks. And all are over the final six games of the season. Should be very interesting.
• A tough stretch: How about early in the season when the Dolphins play at the Los Angeles Chargers (strange saying that) in Week 2, then at the Jets in Week 3 and New Orleans in London in Week 4. I know the Saints game is considered a home game, but it still means three straight weeks of travelling.
• At Buffalo followed by at Kansas City in December won’t exactly be a picnic either, certainly when you consider the potential for brutal weather.
• The Chiefs game is on Dec. 24. A day later and that would have been a noteworthy historical coincidence – 46 years after the double overtime thriller, the first playoff victory in team history.
• Last season the Dolphins had one stretch of four straight games at Hard Rock Stadium. This season the longest stretch is two straight games and that only happens once against Denver on Dec. 3 followed by the Patriots on Dec. 11.
• And finally, just as it opens at home, the regular season concludes at home against the Bills on New Year’s Eve day, a game the Dolphins undoubtedly hope isn’t the end of their season.