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Dolphins open 2011 regular season vs. Pats, close vs. Jets

The Dolphins will open the 2011 NFL season at home against the New England Patriots.

Talk about an instant opportunity to know how good the team is on a big stage. The Patriots won the AFC East last season and had the NFL's best regular-season record at 14-2. The Dolphins finished third in the AFC East and were swept by the Patriots. They also lost seven of eight home games in 2010.

So the 2011 season-opener is a chance for Miami to not only prove how good it is, but immediately erase the taste of last season's home record and third-place finish. It has me pumped. If you are similarly pumped, this is where you get your seasons tickets now.

The Dolphins play three big stage games in 2011. Obviously, the season opener on Monday night is a big deal. The Dolphins will return to primetime on Oct. 17 as they travel to New York to play the Jets. That game follows a bye so the Dolphins should be rested and prepared for their division rivals.

The other big stage game I am talking about is the Thursday, Nov. 24 game at Dallas. Happy Thanksgiving! I'll be eating press box turkey! (Yes, it is all about me.)

You should note that the two consecutive season-opening games at home are not played at the scorching hot 1 o'clock hour. That might be great for the fans because they will get some relief from sitting out in the scorching midday sun, but it does not once again maximize Miami's weather advantage early in the season.

“We open with two games at home and it’s not only imperative that we play well right from the start, we are going to have to show continual improvement throughout the year since we end the season with three straight divisional games," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said in a statement.

The Dolphins do have to deal with two potentially cold weather games late in the season when they travel to Buffalo (Dec. 18) and New England (Dec. 24) on back-to-back weeks.

You should also note that Miami will be on the road for five out of six games from Sept. 25 to Nov. 6. Yes, there is a bye week on Oct. 9 in the middle of that. But the stretch that includes games at San Diego, at the Giants and at Kansas City -- all playoff contenders -- promises to be difficult.

The Dolphins finish the regular season where they began -- at home. And they finish in similar fashion -- against an AFC East rival. The regular-season finale is versus the New York Jets. The Jets went to the AFC title game for the second consecutive season in 2010-11.

Here is the schedule:

Date                Opponent

Sept 12    New England  7 p.m.

Sept. 18    Houston        4:15 p.m.

Sept. 25    at Cleveland   1 p.m.

Oct. 2      at San Diego   4:15

Oct. 9         BYE

Oct. 17       at New York Jets  8:30 p.m.

Oct. 23       Broncos    1 p.m.

Oct. 30    at New York Giants    1 p.m.

Nov. 6      at Kansas City   1 p.m.

Nov. 13     Washington     1 p.m.

Nov. 20      Buffalo          1 p.m.

Nov. 24      at Dallas (Thanksgiving)    4:15 p.m.

Dec. 4       Oakland       1 p.m.

Dec. 11      Philadelphia    1 p.m.

Dec. 18     at Buffalo       1 p.m.

Dec. 24     at New England   1 p.m.

Jan.  1      New York Jets  1 p.m.

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