Each year I analyze the way the NFL schedules games. Now that we’ve had a month since the schedule’s release, it’s time to take a look at how it affects the Dolphins.
First of all, let’s look at some of the annual, repeated unfair advantages that some teams have. For example, we all know that Detroit and Dallas will get home games on Thanksgiving. You may not think it’s a big deal, but it is. Those teams are able to plan their logistics well in advance of other teams. They know it’s a short week to begin with, and having a home game during the short week is a precious advantage.
Some teams are forced to play in foreign countries, either in Mexico, Canada, or even Europe. Those teams (and this has certainly screwed the Dolphins a few times) lose a valuable home game. They get 7 home games while everyone else gets 8. Some of my readers have claimed that there’s not a big difference, but that is wrong. It’s a HUGE difference.
Teams struggle all year long to not only make the playoffs, but to fight for home field advantage as well. In the 1970s, it didn’t matter. Home games were assigned by rotation. That is why the Undefeated Dolphins had to travel for an away game in the 1972 AFC Championship. Home games are a gigantic advantage, and the NFL should not require a team to give them up, just because Roger Goodell wants to spread the game to a bunch of soccer hooligans in London. The NFL is a multi-multi-BILLION-dollar conglomerate. They don’t need to force themselves overseas.
In addition to Thanksgiving, every team is required to play a Thursday Night game. This is ridiculous to begin with. Football is not a game you can play adequately on 3 days’ rest. For the road team, it’s even harder. You lose a day having to travel. No practice, no rehab, just travel. And if you still insist on making the guys play on Thursday, at least mix it up instead of giving the same old teams a Thursday home game each year.
The NFL can make this more fair by simply rotating the TNF schedules.
For example, if the Dolphins played on the road for their TNF game, then the next year, their TNF game should be home. Let it rotate back and forth. But instead, the Dolphins have to go on the road for a TNF game for their FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW this season. 4 years of a short week and 4 years having to travel.
Let’s compare the fairness of that compared to another team. Let’s choose the Patriots for the sake of argument. In the entirety of TNF since the 2000s, the Patriots have played a grand total of 2 away games. Two. TWO!
The Pats have played 9 times on TNF and only 2 road appearances were scattered in there. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are forced to play FOUR away games in the last FOUR years.
Patriots: 1 away game in the last 4 years.
Dolphins: 4 away games in the last 4 years.
Let’s continue another unfair trend that I analyze each year: How the home/away games are bunched.
Let’s assume that ending the season on the road is a bonus. Typically, playoff scenarios come down to Week 17, and being home is a tremendous advantage.
Let’s also say that a home game on opening day is a big advantage too. The crowd is pumped and the players are ready.
So you would think that the NFL makes it fair. They could easily dictate that all the home teams in Week One have to be on the road for Week 17. And vice versa.
This comes into play for the Dolphins. We open at home, so it’s only fair we close on the road. Fair for everyone, right?
Uhhhh, guess where New England opens? And guess where they close? You don’t have to go look at their schedule. Trust me. Don’t look.
The Dolphins have a valuable period this upcoming season where they get two home games in a row. It’s important to have a homestand without having to worry about travel. Winning streaks typically start with and are continued through home games.
The Patriots get a 3-game homestand. The Dolphins only get a 2-game homestand.
16 different teams play at home in Week 17, and most of them are on the road the week before in Week 16. This makes sense. You cannot make it too easy for teams in December by allowing not just one, but TWO home games to end the season. Only 4 out of 32 teams are given a two-game homestand to end the season. New England is one. Any surprises?
A three-game homestand in the middle of the season AND a two-game homestand to end the season?
We’re not making this stuff up. These are just the little inconsistencies you find when analyzing the NFL Schedule.
It’s so easy to correct. If one team gets a 3-game homestand, then all teams should. And no team should be able to play its final TWO games at home.
I doubt very much if the NFL looks into these unfair inconsistencies as much as I do. It’s part of the pain of being a Dolphins fan: the feeling of being walked on every year when the schedule comes out.
There’s not much that we fans can do, but I do propose that our owner, Stephen Ross, can do something.
He can at least mention it. He can at least notice it. Surely someone on his staff can point out to him that we’ve done TNF four years in a row on the road.
There are rules committees and competition committees within the NFL. How many times do you think Mr. Ross has brought up my simple solution?: If you play on TNF one year at home, then the next year you go on the road.
He can also propose a simple fix that says a team cannot both open and close at home.
He can do a lot of this, but he’s just too disinterested to care.
This is the owner who willingly gives up valuable home games so that the Dolphins can play in Europe instead. He doesn’t value the importance of how the schedule can help or hurt the Dolphins.
When it’s time to go to bat for anti-bullying causes or for the University of Michigan, Mr. Ross is at the forefront. But when it’s time face up to the NFL and stand up for the Miami Dolphins, we hear crickets.
The NFL can also implement some rules that the NBA features, specifically, about tanking a game and losing on purpose. That is what Adam Gase did last season in Week 17, when he put his inexperienced, unqualified, and unaccomplished buddy David Fales into the Bills game.
We faced a fierce, hated division rival, and we had a real chance to knock them right out of the playoffs. Instead, Gase let the scrubs play. David Fales throwing to newcomer journeyman AJ Derby. Just what thousands of Dolfans were hoping for in an important division game!
Did Mr. Ross chastise Gase? Fire him? Even notice that Gase handed the game away faster than he handed away Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi?
When the owner and the coach don’t even try to play for pride and beat a division foe, do you think they even scare about scheduling woes?
I’ll turn it over to you guys for your thoughts…