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Dolphins schedule gets easier after Sunday

Sunday's game against New England marks the halfway point of the 2009 season for the Dolphins.

Miami will either be 4-4 or 3-5 after eight games. Last year. the Dolphins made the turn at 4-4.

But on their way to an 11-5 record and the AFC East crown, the Dolphins lost only once more in the final eight weeks.

Can they do it again?

Well, one thing is certain: After Sunday's meeting with the AFC East leading Patriots, the schedule does become more favorable for Miami.

Remember all that talk about the Dolphins having the toughest schedule in the NFL before the season began? Turns out that seemingly applied only to the first half of the season.

The Dolphins will finish that first half against teams that currently hold a combined 38-21 record. The second half of the season is more palatable in that Miami's final eight opponents have a 25-33 record.

The Dolphins played two teams that are currently undefeated in the first half. In the second half, they play a team -- Tampa Bay -- that is currently winless.

In the first half, the Dolphins played only one game against a team (Buffalo) that currently has a losing record. In the second half they play only five games against teams that currently have losing records while matching up only three times -- Pittsburgh, Houston and the New England rematch -- against teams that currently have winning records.

So what does it all mean?

It means if the Dolphins can beat the Patriots, they have an excellent shot at the playoffs because they would boast a 4-0 division record and an manageable second half schedule to feast on.

If the Dolphins lose to the Patriots, they would find themselves three games behind the division leaders and, worse, with a growing reputation of not being able to defeat superior teams.

So Sunday's game is important in that it sets the table for the second half of the season. And it also could set the tone.