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Schedule: Six road games vs playoff teams

The NFL will continue to show off it's ability to turn a non-event into a much-anticipated and chronicled celebration tonight when it releases its 2010 regular-season schedule. If the idea of finding out when the Dolphins play doesn't excite you on NFL Network, you can switch to ESPN because it also will telecast a program about the schedule release.

By the way, Major League Baseball, the NHL and NBA also release their schedules months before the games are played. Does anyone notice? Ah, NFL dominance is in the air this morning.

Anyway, The Miami Herald will share in today's public relations conspiracy by publishing the Dolphins' schedule on its website as soon as one of our reporters can type it up, analyze it, and get the web folks to post it. (I'll be doing other things tonight.)

But since we already know Miami's opponents, I figured this would be a good time to look at how the competition is looking so far and how the Dolphins currently stack up:

The Dolphins are scheduled to travel a total of 21,570 miles to their road games in 2010. The Dolphins, an AFC East team, will play its 10 non-division games at Baltimore, at Cincinnati, at Green Bay, at Minnesota, at Oakland, and host Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, and Tennessee.

Away games against playoff teams Baltimore, Cincinnati, Green Bay, and Minnesota to go with road games against divisional opponents and playoff teams New York and New England do not exactly make for easy road trips. Miami plays eight road games and six will be against 2009 playoff teams. Miami's only road games that don't offer a playoff-caliber team is at Oakland and at Buffalo.

The home games against Pittsburgh and Tennessee are rematches of 2009 losses that cost the Dolphins a playoff berth because of a late-season three-game losing streak.

Obviously the games against Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo seemingly offer Miami a small respite as all three finished last in their divisions last year and are not expected to be playoff-caliber in 2010. Of course, the Bills laid the wood to the Dolphins in Buffalo last year anyway, so they are dangerous.

Depending on the schedule, the Dolphins might miss a few star players from other teams. New York's Santonio Holmes will miss the first four games of the regular season while serving an NFL imposed suspension for testing positive for drugs. The league is also soon expected to soon announce a suspension for Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for violation of the league conduct policy.

The Minnesota game is interesting because the Vikings promise to be better with Brett Favre than without him. But even if Favre answers the bell on his 20th season, which I predict he'll do, I would surmise Miami has a better chance against the Vikings early in the season than late. Simply, at age 41, Favre might be easier to beat than at age 40. After October he might be more beat up, he might be less healthy in some way.

Recall that in 2008, the Dolphins were 1-1 versus Favre. They lost to him in the regular-season opener and beat him in the regular-season finale.

Speaking of openers, the Dolphins must somehow address the increasingly troubling habit of starting slow. Last year the Dolphins were 0-3 out of the gate. In 2008, they were 0-2 out of the gate. In 2007 they were 0-13 out of the gate.

Wouldn't it be great for Miami to be at the front of the pack when the gun sounds in 2010? I would hope the coaching staff will make this a focus in training camp and the preseason -- perhaps by having starters play more snaps in some games, including the preseason-finale.

Any way you look at it, the Dolphins need to get off to a fast start in 2010.

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