Ranking the Dolphins Schedule by Difficulty

The start of the NFL season is now less than two weeks away as the Miami Dolphins look to improve on a 7-9 season. Based on last year's standings, the Dolphins have the eighth toughest schedule in the NFL. With 16 games on the schedule in 2013, here's how they rank from easiest to most difficult.

16. at Cleveland Browns (September 8th)
QB Ryan Tannehill. (Photo: Miami Herald)
It's the season opener and for the Dolphins to prove themselves as a viable playoff contender, it's a must-win. The Browns finished just 5-11 a season ago, but did defeat the Dolphins in Miami's last visit to Cleveland back in 2011. It should give fans an early look at the maturation of second-year quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden.

15. vs. Buffalo Bills (October 20th)
The Dolphins have won four of five at home against the Buffalo Bills and will look for that trend to continue. The first of two meetings this season will come at home after a tough five-game stretch to open the season and a bye week.

14. vs. New York Jets (December 29th)
While on paper it looks like one of Miami's easier games, it may wind up being one of the more important. The Dolphins could be fighting for their playoff lives in the regular season finale. While the Jets have won three of the last five in Miami, the Dolphins have taken the last two season finales against the Jets and have won six of the last nine overall.

13. at Buffalo Bills (December 22nd)
Despite falling 19-14 last November, the Miami Dolphins have still managed to win three of their last five road games against the Bills. This will be the Dolphins' next-to-last game this season and they could arrive at Orchard Park with a lot on the line.

The Dolphins have won 6 of 9 vs. the Jets. (Photo: ESPN)

12. at New York Jets (December 1st)
The Dolphins have won four of the last five against the Jets in New York including a 30-9 thumping last season. But with a December trip to cold weather, this one should be a bit more difficult than the game in Miami despite the fact that the Dolphins have played the Jets better in East Rutherford than in South Florida.

11. vs. San Diego Chargers (November 17th)
The San Diego Chargers finished 7-9 a season ago and have won the last two against Miami, but have already lost Danario Alexander for the season and will have to travel across the country to face the Dolphins. The last Miami victory over the Chargers came in 2008 at Sun Life Stadium.

10. at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (November 11th)
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman has a number of weapons around him and the Buccaneers' offense could give Miami trouble. The good news for Miami is that the Tampa Bay defense struggled a year ago and the Dolphins will have 11 days to prepare for this one and a short distance to travel.

9. vs. Carolina Panthers (November 24th)
The Carolina Panthers finished just 7-9 a season ago, but won their final four games. The Panthers have a dynamic quarterback in Cam Newton and are expected to be improved defensively.  Miami does have history on its side as the Dolphins are 4-0 all-time vs. Carolina.

Miami beat Cincinnati in 2012, 17-13. (Photo: Sun Sentinel)
8. vs. Cincinnati Bengals (October 31st)
The Cincinnati Bengals were one of two playoff teams a season ago defeated by the Miami Dolphins. Miami won 17-13 in Cincinnati last season, but both teams have big expectations this year. This looks to be a low scoring Thursday night battle, but both teams have explosive receivers in A.J. Green for the Bengals and Miami's Mike Wallace. With this game being at home, the short week could be an advantage for the Dolphins.

7. at Pittsburgh Steelers (December 8th)
 Mike Wallace's return to Pittsburgh could have huge playoff implications. The Steelers underachieved last season going 8-8, but getting a win in the steel city won't be easy. The Dolphins have lost four straight to Pittsburgh and have not beat the Steelers since 1999.

6. at New Orleans Saints (September 30th)
Despite just a 7-9 finish a season ago, the New Orleans Saints managed to lead the NFC in points scored as Drew Brees and a talented corps of receivers will test the seemingly suspect Miami secondary. A Monday night game, the Superdome crowd will be lively as well. This will also be Miami's second dome game in four weeks.

5. vs. Baltimore Ravens (October 6th)
The defending champs have seemed to have their way with the Dolphins in years past and this looks to be another challenge for Miami. It will also be linebacker Dannell Ellerbee's first game against his former team. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has become one of the league's best, but Baltimore did lose a number of key players on each side of the ball. Since collecting their only win of 2007 against the Ravens, the Dolphins have lost three straight to Baltimore and by an average margin of 16 points.

4. vs. New England Patriots (December 15th)
The Miami Dolphins have lost six straight to New England and many believe that this game could decide the AFC East. The Dolphins last beat the Patriots in 2009 and have lost 10 of 12 overall. Miami has also dropped five of the last six in South Florida. This game could have huge playoff implications and a win won't come easy. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick  and New England always seems to play their best football in December as well.
Luck (right) and Tannehill (left) meet in Week 2. (Photo: Zimbio)

3. at Indianapolis Colts (September 15th)
The Dolphins let one slip away in Indianapolis last season falling 23-20 to the Colts. This should be an exciting showdown of second-year quarterbacks as Andrew Luck leads his Colts against Ryan Tannehill and Miami. The Colts were tied for the second best home record in the league a year ago finishing with a 7-1 mark at Lucas Oil Stadium.

2. vs. Atlanta Falcons (September 22nd)
The Dolphins' home opener pits them against the team that finished with the best regular season record a season ago. The Falcons went 13-3 a season ago and finished just yards shy of making the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan is loaded with a corps of weapons and will certainly test Miami's secondary. Brent Grimes will be facing his former team as he looks to help Miami beat the Falcons for the first time since 2001.
New England has won 6 straight vs. Miami (Photo: Zimbio)

1. at New England Patriots (October 27th)
The Miami Dolphins have not won in New England since 2008 and this has a chance to be a real statement game for Miami. The last time the Dolphins won in Foxborough, they won something even more significant, the division. The Patriots are 16-2 against the AFC East over the last three years.

Mike Ferguson is a staff writer at Dolphin Shout and the founder and editor of Outside the Redzone. Like Outside the Redzone on Facebook!