Dolphins receive AFC East’s hardest Strength of Schedule for 2018

The Miami Dolphins Gorillas - Image by Brian Miller
The Miami Dolphins Gorillas - Image by Brian Miller /

After finishing the 2017 season at 6-10 and being one of the NFL’s most difficult teams to watch on game day, the National Football League did not do the Miami Dolphins any favors for 2018 when they decided to give the team the 15th hardest strength of schedule.

Based on Miami’s future 2018 opponents’ combined records of 2017, the Dolphins are looking at a SOS of .500, and are in a 3-way tie for 15th-hardest with the 49’ers and Cowboys.

Knowing the Miami Dolphins and how they have a history of teetering around a .500 record at the end of the season anyway, 15th-hardest out of 32 teams doesn’t sound off the mark. But seeing as how they finished 6-10, placed 3rd in the AFC East, and were one of the worst performing teams on both sides of the ball– it does seem unfair. Especially when one realizes that this is the hardest Strength of Schedule for any team in the AFC East.

The Jets, who finished 5-11, are in a 4-way tie with the Steelers, Broncos, and Jaguars for the 25th-hardest SOS (.477). This is somewhat understandable as the Jets were viewed as one of the more depleted rosters entering the 2017 season after cutting many veteran players, and were suspected of tanking for a 2018 quarterback prospect. But the Jets had 1 less win than the Dolphins. Does that merit having a schedule that is significantly “easier”?

The Bills, however, made the playoffs and finished with a 9-7 record in 2017. Better than the Jets, better than the Dolphins, and for their efforts, were blessed with the 18th-hardest SOS (.496). That sounds like 3 spots, but in reality, they are ranked immediately after the Dolphins 3-way tie. It’s not bad, but still “easier” than a Dolphins team that won 3 fewer games with no playoff appearance.

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And now, we’ve reached the final team in the AFC East –the New England Patriots.

The Mighty New England Patriots.

The Evil Empire.

The Patriots strength of schedule for the upcoming 2018 NFL season is…
(drum roll, please)


Yes, Dolphin fans. Once again the football gods smile upon the Patriots, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady.

The 13-3 team that just participated in the Super Bowl is in a tie with the Indianapolis Colts, a 4-12 team and a team their returning offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels just screwed over, for the 22nd-hardest SOS. It’s also the 2nd-easiest schedule for an AFC East team after the Jets .477.

Based on this outcome, it looks like the Patriots are in a good position to make the Super Bowl again.

(To be fair, it’s not exactly a Patriots/NFL conspiracy. The Steelers and Jaguars, who both finished the 2017 regular season with 10+ wins and faced each other in playoffs, are tied with the Jets for the 25th-hardest SOS.)

During the upcoming season, the Dolphins will face their typical rivals in the AFC East as well as the teams from the AFC South and NFC North, and 1 team from the AFC North (Bengals).

8 of the Dolphins 16 games will feature opponents who had 9+ wins in 2017: Bills (2 games), Patriots (2 games), Lions, Vikings, Jaguars, and Titans.

5 of those teams made the playoffs: Bills, Patriots, Vikings, Jaguars,  and Titans.

An additional 3 of their opponents from the AFC South and NFC North will be expecting their starting quarterbacks to return from injury: Andrew Luck (shoulder) will be returning to the Colts, Deshaun Watson (ACL) will return to Texans, and Aaron Rodgers (collar-bone) will return to the Packers.

Not to mention the other quality quarterbacks on the schedule: Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota, a Blake Bortles who got hot in the playoffs, and possibly a Case Keenum who got to the NFC Championship.

Yes, I think it’s safe to say the Miami Dolphins will have their work cut out for them in 2018 with the AFC East’s hardest Strength of Schedule.