DAVIE — A minor piece of history will be made Sunday when the Dolphins visit the Buffalo Bills.
You remember the Bills, right? AFC East team buried somewhere under all that snow?
If your memory’s foggy, it’s understandable. Even though Christmas is approaching, the Dolphins and the Bills have not met this season. Never before have the Dolphins waited this long to play their initial game against a divisional rival. Just to make sure everybody gets real friendly, the teams meet again on New Year’s Eve at Hard Rock Stadium.
For reasons we’ll explain in a second, this is not a good thing.
First, a reminder that this two-meetings-in-three-weeks arrangement isn’t unique. The Dolphins just did it with the Patriots, Nov. 26 in Foxborough and this past Monday night in Miami Gardens.
The reason this is a problem is it directly affected the Dolphins having no true bye week this season.
Here’s why: As we all know, the Dolphins were supposed to open at home Sept. 10 against Tampa Bay, but Hurricane Irma had other ideas. Since both the Dolphins and Bucs had byes Nov. 19, the logical move was to shift the game to that date even if it meant both teams would have to play 16 consecutive weeks.
But if that home opener had been against, say, the Bills (or Patriots or Jets), the NFL could have flip-flopped the home-and-home series, making the first meeting a road game and having the rematch in Miami, which would have made for a far more equitable season.
Listen, putting together an NFL schedule involving 32 teams with 32 sets of requests involving stadium availability, travel and a million wrinkles is an unimaginable headache. But so was forcing the Dolphins to move their operation to California for the week before the game against the Chargers. And that’s just for starters. The Dolphins also have to travel the fourth-most miles (27,520) this season. Not to mention, what if the Dolphins and Bucs didn’t share the same bye week on the original schedule? Then what?
Adam Gase has correctly avoided whining about the schedule all season, not wanting the players to use it as a crutch. If the Dolphins should run the table these final three games and make the playoffs, they’ll be that much more battle-tested for it. And it makes perfect sense for the regular season to wind down with divisional matchups to spark fan interest, so we get that.
Still, given how much Jim Cantore is on the move as fall approaches these past few years, you would hope that in the future, the early home assignments are divisional games for teams most likely to be hurricaned out, including those in Florida and Texas plus the Panthers, Falcons and Saints.
The NFL can’t predict which cities are going to have more important issues to worry about in September than a football game.
But it can build safeguards into the schedule to avoid another season like this one.
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