NFL scheduling for the 2023 regular season resulted in the Miami Dolphins having to open their season with two consecutive road games — on two different coasts. They beat the Los Angeles Chargers in southern California in Week 1, and then traveled to Massachusetts for a Week 2 Sunday Night Football matchup against the New England Patriots.
The Dolphins have come out of that stretch 2-0, following a 24-17 victory against the Patriots. For as well as they have played the first two weeks of the season, nothing about their two wins was overpowering. Their offense is the fastest in the NFL, but the fact that — per a Sunday Night Football anecdote — they have players with elite speed arguing over high-school 100-meter-dash times, is no magic carpet ride to the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance since Purple Rain was released.
Their defense did not hold up its end of the bargain in a shootout against the Chargers in Week 1. However, it did recover to largely contain a Patriots offense that had outgained and tallied more first downs than the Philadelphia Eagles during a Week 1 loss. With two road wins against strong opponents salted away, the rest of the Dolphins’ schedule presents a pathway to the top seed in the AFC.
Of all the teams currently sitting at 2-0, the Dolphins have played the most difficult schedule.
And while the Miami defense made far more plays against the Patriots than it did against the Chargers, during the second half the Dolphins found themselves scrambling to stymie drives. The referees have the authority to say there was clear evidence to overturn the first down originally called following Mike Gesicki’s lateral to Cole Strange in the fourth quarter, but that doesn’t mean they were right. The Patriots were marching down the field to tie the game.
Both of the Dolphins’ 2023 opponents are 0-2, but also have had legitimate chances to win in consecutive weeks. The Chargers and Patriots will likely be fighting for a playoff berth all year, but regardless of how narrow the Dolphins’ victories were, Miami is now in prime position.
They just played against a cold-weather rival a week after traveling to the west coast. Those are two disadvantages they brushed aside at the most opportune time. The Dolphins do not travel out west the rest of the year, and the earliest they will likely play in winter cold is their Nov. 24 matchup against the New York Jets — sans Aaron Rogers. They play the Washington Commanders the following week and finish the season with four of their last five games at Hard Rock Stadium in south Florida. No January AFC East snow, and the only chance of dealing with frigid weather during the most crucial weeks of the NFL season is a New Year’s Eve matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Dolphins have speed, a defense that will be even more stout with the return of Jalen Ramsey come winter, and two early wins in their pocket with a schedule that should largely spare them of late-season snow and windchill.
A yellow brick road has been laid for a Dolphins playoff run, mostly as a result of some early season resilience away from home. There is a real chance that the AFC Championship this season will run through Miami Gardens.