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2017 NFL schedule release: Miami Dolphins get everything they want

Most teams await the NFL schedule release with an attitude of taking whatever the league gives them and an understanding that there will be some complaints, but the Miami Dolphins got everything they wanted in their 2017 slate.

The team will open the season at home for just the second time in six seasons, plays four prime-time games, has no back-breaking road swings and got the bye week in its preferred spot.

Adam Gase starts his second season Sept. 10 against the Buccaneers, and the Dolphins will close at home against the Bills on New Year’s Eve. In between, there’s plenty of intrigue.

Thanks to their breakout season last year, when they made the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the Dolphins were an attractive pick for the TV networks. In addition to the Thursday night game that every team gets, Week 8 at Baltimore, the Dolphins will play Monday night games at Carolina (Week 9) and at home against New England (Week 12).

Even more significant, Miami returns to the Sunday Night Football schedule for the first time in nine years. The Dolphins will host Oakland in Week 9, marking their second time playing on Sunday night since the NFL establish that as its premier game of the week. They were left completely out of the Sunday and Monday night schedules last year.

The Dolphins will play both teams from last season’s Super Bowl. In addition to their regular New England matchups, they visit Atlanta in Week 6.

One concern the organization had was the NFL’s custom of giving teams a week off after they play overseas. However, the Dolphins are playing the Saints in London in Week 4 and did not want their bye that early in the season. Their ideal scenario was playing at home in Week 5 and getting a bye in the middle of the schedule, and the league did exactly that. Miami will host Tennessee when it gets back from London and take its bye in Week 11.

There was bound to be some difficult road stretch for the Dolphins considering they’re playing seven home games this season, and that comes early in the season. They travel to the West Coast to face the Chargers in Week 2, followed by a visit to the Jets in Week 3 and the London game in Week 4.

However, it can be argued that isn’t as bad as what the league gave Miami last year, when it played at Seattle, New England and Cincinnati in the first four weeks. The opponents on that three-week road swing this year combined to go 17-31 in 2016.

The Chargers game will be played at their temporary home in Carson, Calif., which is a 30,000-seat soccer stadium. The Dolphins will also play in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opens this year and will host the Super Bowl in 2019.

Aside from October, the Dolphins don’t play more than two road games in a month and there won’t be any elongated trip unless they choose to go straight from New York to London. Last season, the team had trips to Seattle, San Diego and Los Angeles and requested that the league put two of them back-to-back to they could stay out west between games.

One oddity in the schedule is that Miami’s games against division opponents are bunched. Both games against the Bills and Patriots come in three-week spans. The Dolphins face New England in Weeks 12 and 14, then play Buffalo in Weeks 15 and 17. The Jets games are also somewhat close together with the teams meeting in Weeks 2 and 7.

Regarding the holidays, Miami was not selected for the late Thanksgiving game or for a spot on Christmas. In addition to the usual Detroit and Dallas home games, the league put Giants-Redskins on Thanksgiving night. The Christmas Day schedule features Colts-Ravens and Vikings-Packers.

The opponents are predetermined based on league-wide rotation and have been known since the end of last season. Miami plays six games in the AFC East every year and is on rotation to face the AFC West and NFC South this season. The remaining two games are set according to where in-conference teams finished in their divisions the previous year, so Miami drew fellow second-place finishers Baltimore and Tennessee.

This will be the Dolphins’ fifth straight season facing the Ravens, who beat them three of the past four years, and the Chargers. Miami and Tennessee have squared off three years in a row.

Miami’s preseason schedule has been tentatively laid out with two games at home against the Falcons and Ravens, followed by trips to Philadelphia and Minnesota. Exact dates have yet to be solidified.

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