Miami Dolphins: Looking ahead to notable games on the schedule

In the midst of a rebuild, what games are going to define the Miami Dolphins 2019 season? How will Brian Flores’ team react to adversity and the NFL’s top talent?

Now that the dust has settled from offseason workouts and the Miami Dolphins have a break before training camp, we can start looking ahead to the 2019 season. Miami isn’t expected to win many games this year after purging the roster to initiate a rebuild.

On paper, it looks as if the Dolphins will have a lackluster roster this season which will make winning games difficult. With a new coaching staff in place, it will be interesting to see how the team reacts to difficult moments and how they’ll play against some of the league’s best teams.

Week 1: September 8th – vs. Baltimore Ravens

Miami kicks off their season against a team they have struggled with in recent history. This game poses two problems for the Dolphins. First of all, the track record of the teams meeting over the past decade is not in Miami’s favor. Additionally,  second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson will look to pose a considerable threat to the Dolphins.

Since 2010 the Dolphins and Ravens have met six times with Baltimore winning five of those games, the last two by a combined margin of 78 to 6. Baltimore routinely “bullies” Miami with power running games and suffocating defense. It looks like there won’t be an exception this year. Miami’s defense was 31st in the National Football League last year in rushing yards allowed while Baltimore finished second in that category on offense.

Jackson, who grew up down the street from Hard Rock Stadium, is an electric QB. Not only can he beat you with his arm, but he’s the closest thing the NFL has seen to a rushing QB since Michael Vick. Miami has struggled with running quarterbacks for years. In two games last year, Buffalo Bills rookie QB Josh Allen ran for 230 yards and two scores against Miami.

Week 2: September 15th – vs. New England Patriots

Week two will bring the New England Patriots to town. The defending Super Bowl champions are also coach Brian Flores’ former team. The Dolphins have beaten the Patriots in Miami five out of the last seven years. Will Flores’ team be able to keep the pace?

Miami has had success in beating New England by putting pressure on Tom Brady and forcing him into poor decisions. However, with the departure of the team’s three top pass rushers, will Miami be able to get to the six-time Super Bowl MVP?

Offensively, Miami will need to look to attack last years 28th ranked passing defense. Whether Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen is under center, they’ll need to be successful through the air if they want to beat the champs.

Week 8: October 28th – @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Week eight will be Miami’s first and only game during prime time this season. Miami is 1-8 in their last nine prime time games dating back to the 2015 season. For whatever reason, the Dolphins crumble to the pressure when the lights come on and the whole country is watching.

Adding to the difficulty of a nationally televised game is the opponent Miami will face. The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of a “down” year. They finished with just nine wins, the team’s first season with single digit wins since 2013.

Pittsburgh no longer has the weapons they’ve had in the past after losing star wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell. But that doesn’t mean they’re without talent, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is a budding superstar who many expect to truly breakout this year and RB James Conner stepped in for Bell last season and played phenomenally.

Miami will need to find a way to eliminate at least one of those two players to have a chance at winning this game. Luckily, cornerback Xavien Howard should be up to the task of stopping Smith-Schuster. It will be up to the front seven to stop Conner and give Miami a shot.

Week 9: November 3rd – vs. New York Jets

Week nine brings a familiar face back to Miami. Former head coach Adam Gase will make his way back into Hard Rock Stadium coaching his new team. Although the New York Jets look like a circus show right now, Gase will be coming for blood, make no mistake.

In week 13 of the 2017 season, the Dolphins, coached by Gase, beat Gase’s former employer, the Denver Broncos 35-9. Most notably from this game was a moment in the fourth quarter. With Miami already well ahead, Gase called for an onside kick after scoring. His time in Miami came to an ugly end and the Dolphins should be ready for anything and everything. Gase might not be the greatest evaluator of defensive coaches, but his brain is hardwired on offense. I would expect some plays the league hasn’t seen to be showcased week nine.

Jessee Lopez is a writer for PFN covering the Miami Dolphins. You can follow him @jlopez_416 on Twitter.