2018 Dolphins schedule: Miami hoping for ‘normal’ season after last year

The Dolphins are hoping for a “normal” season in 2018. (Bill Ingram/The Post)

The travel won’t be as brutal as last season, but the Dolphins’ degree of difficulty will still be high in 2018.

The NFL released their schedule for the upcoming season tonight, and it includes no games outside of the Eastern and Central Time Zones, no international games, no crazy road swings and, wonderfully, an actual bye week.

Now Miami just hopes the plan doesn’t get reshuffled like it did last year, when Hurricane Irma’s approach changed the course of the season.

“We’re just looking forward to, hopefully, just having a normal season,” team president Tom Garfinkel said recently.

The upcoming campaign begins with a rarity. The Dolphins will host the Titans on Sept. 9 for their first home opener since 2014. Thanks to last year’s Week 1 game against Tampa Bay being moved to November and the team starting with trips to Los Angeles, New York and London, Miami opened on the road in five of the last six seasons.

This season the team gets its bye in Week 11, giving it a rest before the final six games.

It’s a balanced schedule in terms of home and away, with the Dolphins playing only one stretch of back-to-back weeks on the road.

Seven of their first nine games are against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year, which could be important for a roster that needs time to solidify itself. The flip side is that Miami faces a three-game run in December against teams that were in the conference title round last season: home against the Patriots in Week 14, at Minnesota in Week 15 and home against Jacksonville in Week 16.

The exact date of the Jaguars game is yet to be determined. The Dolphins will host Jacksonville on Dec. 22 (a Saturday) or Dec. 23 depending on television considerations.

The opener is usually the No. 1 concern when the schedule comes out. After that comes the fretful search for cold-weather games.

The Dolphins’ three AFC East road games set up reasonably well for them with a visit to the Jets in Week 2 and Patriots in Week 4. Likewise, those teams don’t come to Miami Gardens in the first half of the season when the local weather is at its muggiest.

Their annual trek to Buffalo comes in the season finale, Dec. 30, in part because Miami asked to close the season on the road. The Orange Bowl is a college football national semifinal this year and will take place at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 29.

Last season, the stadium hosted the Orange Bowl the night before Miami’s Week 17 home game against the Bills, and the tight turnaround is something the organization would like to avoid if possible—especially it being part of the college playoffs this year.

The Patriots come to South Florida on Dec. 9, the Jets arrive in Week 9 and the Bills get off easy with a Week 13 trip.

Then there’s the rare appearance at Lambeau Field, which falls in Week 10. The Dolphins will play at Green Bay in mid-November, which isn’t the worst outcome, but it’s certainly late enough in the year for it to be nasty up there. The average low in Green Bay that time of year is 29 degrees.

The only other outdoor road game is Week 5 at Cincinnati, which should be comfortable. When the Dolphins play at Minnesota (Week 15) and Indianapolis (Week 12), both of those are dome teams. The Houston game in Week 8 will also be indoors.

The matchup with the Texans is also the Dolphins’ only planned primetime appearance. They’ll play in front of a national audience as part of the NFL’s mandate that each team does one Thursday night game. Their Sunday games can be flexed based on how compelling the matchups are late in the season.

Miami gets some nice perks at home with Oakland having to travel cross-country in Week 3 and a back-to-back against the Bears and Lions (Weeks 7 and 8). Chicago and Detroit will learn the hard way that October is still considered summer down here.

If South Florida has hurricane issues in September and October, it won’t be as easy to reschedule as last year. None of the four teams the Dolphins host in the first half of the season share their bye week.

Here’s the Dolphins’ full 2018 schedule:

Week 1: Sun., Sept. 9, 1 p.m. vs. Tennessee Titans

Week 2: Sun., Sept. 16, 1 p.m. at New York Jets

Week 3: Sun., Sept. 23, 1 p.m. vs. Oakland Raiders

Week 4: Sun., Sept. 30, 1 p.m. at New England Patriots

Week 5: Sun., Oct. 7, 1 p.m. at Cincinnati Bengals

Week 6: Sun., Oct. 14, 1 p.m. vs. Chicago Bears

Week 7: Sun., Oct. 21, 1 p.m. vs. Detroit Lions

Week 8: Thu., Oct. 25, 8:20 p.m. at Houston Texans

 

Week 9: Sun., Nov. 4, 1 p.m. vs. New York Jets

Week 10: Sun., Nov. 11, 1 p.m. at Green Bay Packers

Week 11: Bye

Week 12: Sun., Nov. 25, 1 p.m. at Indianapolis Colts

 

Week 13: Sun., Dec. 2, 1 p.m. vs. Buffalo Bills

Week 14: Sun., Dec. 9, 1 p.m. vs. New England Patriots

Week 15: Sun, Dec. 16, 1 p.m. at Minnesota Vikings

Week 16: Dec. 22 or 23 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 17: Sun., Dec. 30, 1 p.m. at Buffalo Bills

The Dolphins also have a tentative schedule for the preseason:

Week 1: Aug. 9-13 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 2: Aug. 16-20 at Carolina Panthers
Week 3: Aug. 23-26 vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 4: Aug. 30 or 31 at Atlanta Falcons

[A look inside the Dolphins’ process for making draft picks and who makes the final call]

[What the Dolphins think of skill players in this year’s NFL Draft]

[Frank Gore’s on a mission with Miami Dolphins]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.