SCHEDULE MAKERS NO FRIENDS

You will never hear Coach Dave Wannstedt say anything about it publicly, so we'll say it for him. It sure looks like the NFL schedule-makers have something against the Dolphins.

Now, this isn't meant as a column making excuses for the Dolphins putting themselves in an almost do-or-die situation Sunday afternoon at New England. Rather, it's just an observation that we will back up with some rather interesting facts.

There just are some things about the Dolphins schedule that really stink.

-- First, the Dolphins played at Buffalo on Dec. 1 and are playing at New England on Dec. 29. They also played at the Meadowlands on a Sunday night in November, after they had faced all three division opponents at home.

Think the schedule could have been arranged so that the road games against the division were more spread out.

Is it possible the NFL wants to balance out the Dolphins' home games in September, which undoubtedly provides an advantage, with cold-weather games in December.

How else to explain the fact the Dolphins have played at New England in New England the last three years and they have played at Buffalo in November or December each of the last six seasons.

-- The Dolphins also are one of four teams finishing with two road games; the others are Tennessee, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

By comparison, four teams are closing with two home games, the list including Oakland, Washington, Indianapolis and the New England Patriots.

This isn't as big an issue because every team plays eight home games and eight road games, but given the choice, most teams probably would prefer closing at home.

-- This is the one that really bugs us, though. For the second consecutive year, the Dolphins were forced to play back-to-back games on short weeks.

Remember that they had to face Oakland on a Sunday afternoon after playing Chicago the previous Monday night. Then they had to travel to Minnesota for a Saturday afternoon game after the victory over Oakland.

Linebacker Zach Thomas said after the loss to the Vikings that he didn't have his legs, and maybe the tough stretch had something to do with that.

What's more galling if you're a Dolphins fan is that they had to do that last year as well, and it was even worse then because the second and third games of the stretch were on the road.

Want to know how many others had back-to-back short weeks over the last two years? Try none. Nobody else in either of the last two years, and the Dolphins have had to do it both last season and this season.

Why does that not seem fair?

For those old enough to remember, there were whispers that the Dolphins had an unfair advantage when Don Shula was the head coach and also a prominent member of the competition committee.

Is this payback?

We're not suggesting anything here other than the Dolphins have not been done any favors by the NFL the last two years, almost to the point of it being unfair.

"I don't know who does the schedule. I've been trying to make some phone calls to figure it out, but I can't get a return call from anybody," defensive end Jason Taylor said in a national conference call this week. "Last year we had a situation where we had the three games in 13 days in December and we had it again this year. It seems like every year, we get New England up there at the end. They like to get those Dolphins up there in the snow in December for some reason.

"It's how it's laid out. We can't do anything about it, and the only thing we can do is go up there and play hard, that's what we have to find a way to do."


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