Ranking the Dolphins' 2021 Schedule by Degree of Difficulty

The Miami Dolphins will have a lot of tough games in 2021, but which ones look like the most challenging at this time?
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While we already knew the Miami Dolphins opponents and the sites, the release of the 2021 regular season schedule brought an additional layer when it comes to degree of difficulty.

We ranked the Dolphins' 2021 schedule by degree of difficulty after the schedule was released but now have updated the rankings in light of the Julio Jones trade from the Atlanta Falcons to the Tennessee Titans, two teams the Dolphins will be facing next season.

1. At Buffalo, Oct. 31, Week 8

The Bills were a game away from the Super Bowl last year, and they look just as formidable now as they did when the Dolphiins saw them in Buffalo in the finale. Even before Josh Allen became an MVP candidate, the Dolphins never were able to figure him out, which is why the Bills have averaged about 33 points in the last five meetings.

2. At Tampa Bay, Oct. 10, Week 5

One would think a road game against the defending champions would rank first on any list of this kind, especially since Tampa Bay has EVERYBODY back from last year, but there's one factor that put this game at number 2 for us. It's the letdown factor. Why? Because in Week 4, the Buccaneers are playing at New England in Tom Brady's return to Gillette Stadium in what we're going to suggest will be a much-ballyhooed affair (being sarcastic).

3. Vs. Baltimore, Nov. 11, Week 10

Yes, this has a lot to do with the fact that the Dolphins will have to find a way to slow down Lamar Jackson, but there's the recent history of this series to consider also. Let's just say it's been bad for Miami. The last three meetings have ended in Baltimore victories by the scores of 38-6, 40-0 and 59-10. Ouch!

4. At Tennessee, Jan. 2, Week 17

It's the reunion game with quarterback Ryan Tannehill that will dominate the headlines, but the big task here will be trying to slow down Derrick Henry. The addition of Jones, though, makes the Tennessee passing game more dangerous because he provides the ideal complement to fellow wide receiver A.J. Brown.

5. Vs. Buffalo, Sept. 19, Week 2

Unless Josh Allen takes a step back in 2021, the Bills are going to be tough to handle again. At home or on the road.

6. At New Orleans, Dec. 27, Week 16

The last time the Dolphins played at New Orleans, it also was a Monday night game and it didn't end well for Miami, which lost 38-17. There's no Drew Brees to have to contain anymore, but it's not like the Saints are just going to go away.

7. At New England, Sept. 12, Week 1

This game will be played under much different circumstances than the 2020 opener because there will be a preseason, but the reality is that New England looks like a much better team this time around after their flurry of free agent signings.

8. Vs. Indianapolis, Oct. 3, Week 4

The Colts are one of those teams that could go in one extreme direction or another because of their new quarterback Carson Wentz, who once was playing at a MVP level but who struggled badly last year in Philadelphia. If Wentz is more like the 2017 version, watch out for the Colts because there's a lot of talent around him.

9. Vs. New England, Jan. 9, Week 18

How's this for a cool scenario: The Patriots and Dolphins are fighting it out for a playoff spot, Mac Jones has by now taken over as the starting quarterback in New England, and a Tua-Jones battle that the NFL puts on Sunday night as the last game of the regular season.

10. At Las Vegas, Sept. 26, Week 3

It's going to be awfully hard for this game to match the excitement of the Week 16 game from 2020 when the two teams met in prime time. The Raiders are kind of a forgotten team in the AFC, but Derek Carr can make them dangerous any given week.

11. Vs. Atlanta, Oct. 24, Week 7

Let's be clear: The Falcons made the Jones trade for financial (salary cap) reasons and their offense more than likely will miss him. That said, this game might be tougher than the opponent would dictate — though it's going to be fun watching rookie tight end Kyle Pitts — because of the circumstances. This game will come the week after the Dolphins play in London because the NFL didn't provide the customary bye afterward. What's interesting to note here is that the Falcons will be coming off a bye after their own game in London in Week 5.

12. Vs. N.Y. Giants, Dec. 5, Week 13

This game will match the Dolphins against former defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, but it could come down to QB Daniel Jones and/or what kind of bounce-back season running back Saquon Barkley can have.

13. Vs. Jacksonville (at London, England), Oct. 17, Week 6

The Dolphins spanked the Jaguars in a Thursday night in Jacksonville last year when they blitzed Gardner Minshew into submission, but now they'll have to face top rookie QB prospect Trevor Lawrence. Brian Flores and Josh Boyer produced a game plan that stifled Justin Herbert last year, so Lawrence can expect the same kind of thing.

14. At N.Y. Jets, Nov. 21, Week 11

The Jets certainly won't be as easy to handle as they were last season now that they have a new head coach (Robert Saleh) and new quarterback (Zach Wilson), but they shouldn't be expected to be contenders at this time.

15. Vs. Carolina, Nov. 28, Week 12

The Panthers likely to make strides in 2021 in Matt Rhule's second year, but the Dolphins have pretty much owned Sam Darnold since he arrived into the NFL as the third overall pick in 2018.

16. Vs. N.Y. Jets, Dec. 18 or 19, Week 15

See number 14. The bad news if the Jets can't make much improvement from last year is that this game likely won't be moved into a better viewing Saturday slot.

17. Vs. Houston, Nov. 7, Week 9

If Deshaun Watson somehow ends up playing for the Texans in 2021, this game will become a lot tougher because he can almost single-handedly make Houston competitive. But it looks instead like it's going to be an awfully long year for the Texans again.