Few people had the Dolphins pegged as a potential playoff team last year, but in Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season, they had a win-and-in postseason scenario. All they had to do was beat the Bills in Week 17, and they would be playing as a wild-card team in the AFC playoffs.
That didn’t ultimately come to fruition. In fact, the team gave up 56 points in what was, arguably, their worst game of the season and what was, definitely, Tua Tagovailoa’s worst game. Still, the fact that Miami was playing for a postseason berth just a year after having a top-five pick and two years after firing Adam Gase is a big achievement.
Now, Flores will look to take the Dolphins to the next level and get them back to the postseason. Unlike their other highly-rated AFC East counterparts, the Dolphins’ schedule doesn’t look too tough on paper. Matchups with Lamar Jackson, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Trevor Lawrence could test the defense, but the Dolphins are already strong on that side of the ball. It’s more about whether their offense can live up to the expectations; they’re finally not the loveable, punchy underdogs anymore.
Here is a complete breakdown of the Dolphins’ 2021 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis for all 17 games.
Miami Dolphins schedule 2021
The Dolphins’ full schedule was announced as part of the NFL’s schedule release on Wednesday, May 12 at 8 p.m. ET:
|1||Sept. 12||at Patriots||4:25 p.m. ET||CBS|
|2||Sept. 19||vs. Bills||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|3||Sept. 26||at Raiders||4:05 p.m. ET||CBS|
|4||Oct. 3||vs. Colts||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|5||Oct. 10||at Buccaneers||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|6||Oct. 17||at Jaguars (London)||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|7||Oct. 24||vs. Falcons||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|8||Oct. 31||at Bills||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|9||Nov. 7||vs. Texans||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|10||Nov. 11 (TNF)||vs. Ravens||8:20 p.m.||NFL Network/Fox/Amazon Prime|
|11||Nov. 21||at Jets||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|12||Nov. 28||vs. Panthers||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|13||Dec. 5||vs. Giants||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|14||Dec. 12||Bye week||—||—|
|15||Dec. 18 or 19 (TBD)||vs. Jets||TBD||TBD|
|16||Dec. 27||at Saints||8:15 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|17||Jan. 2||at Titans||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|18||Jan. 9||vs. Patriots||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
The Dolphins should be better during the 2021 NFL season, too. The Dolphins’ defense is strong, especially in the secondary, so that will give them a chance to compete for the AFC East title. They’ve also added a lot of talent to their offense in receiver Will Fuller and draft picks Jaylen Waddle (WR) and Liam Eichenberg (OT).The Dolphins got off to a 1-3 start last season in Flores’ second year in charge, but were able to post double digit wins thanks in part to a five-game winning streak that spanned Weeks 5-10. During that stretch, the Dolphins knocked off the reigning Super Bowl champion 49ers, the playoff-bound Rams, and two dynamic, young QBs in Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert.
Plus, Tua Tagovailoa will be another year removed from a catastrophic hip injury that he suffered in college, so he may be able to do more on the field as a result. He’ll need to make the leap in order for the Dolphins to reach their full potential, but Flores and Co. showed faith in the No. 5 overall pick in the ’20 NFL Draft.
All told, the Dolphins don’t have a very tough-looking schedule on paper, so they should have a chance to make some noise barring an unexpected rise from some of the middling teams on their schedule.
Dolphins strength of schedule
Of the four AFC East teams, the Dolphins have the easiest schedule at a mark of 0.471 this year. That ties them for the fifth-easiest schedule with the Broncos based on last year’s win/loss records for teams.
That’s not to say that the Dolphins don’t have some tough opponents on the docket, but considering that they have five games against the teams that finished bottom-four in the NFL last season, that should buoy them and give them a fairly high floor. Maybe one of them, like the Falcons, will prove to be a tougher test than expected, but no matter how you look at it, this schedule looks solid for the Dolphins.
Toughest Test: The Dolphins will be taking on the Buccaneers and Saints on the road, two good teams with solid home-field advantages. Miami’s defense should give them a chance in those games, but they do represent the toughest matchups on the slate.
The other tough game to watch will be the one vs. the Ravens. Baltimore thrashed Miami a couple of years ago early in the season, and while the Dolphins’ defense is much better than it was then, it’s never easy to contain Lamar Jackson. That may be the only home game that gives them significant trouble, though their matchup with the Bills will need to be watched as well. That said, after Tagovailoa’s late-season debacle against Buffalo last year, the Dolphins will surely be ready to deal out some revenge.
Biggest Breaks: This schedule as a whole looks pretty nice for the Dolphins. The Jaguars, Jets, Texans and Falcons all finished with bottom-four records last season, so the Dolphins could be ready to take advantage of those games. Yes, the Jaguars and Jets have new quarterbacks, but what about their defenses? The same can be asked about the Falcons.
As for the Texans, will they be a daunting opponent if they don’t have Deshaun Watson? Probably not. They may not even be that good with him, at the moment, because of how unsettled every position on their roster currently is.
Bottom Line: It’s incredible that the Dolphins are still rebuilding, in some sense, as they are well ahead of schedule for where they’re supposed to be. Flores and Chris Grier have done an excellent job shaping this roster into a solid one, and their defense looks particularly good. So do the receivers and tight end weapons they’ve surrounded Tagovailoa with.
If the Dolphins had a tough schedule, they may only be a .500 team solely because Tagovailoa is still growing as a QB, and the team still has some needs at the running back spot and in the front seven. But with a good-looking schedule ahead of them, the ‘Phins can take advantage and push for a wild-card spot once again.
Record Prediction: 11-6