As the calendar swiftly turns to February on Thursday, the 2023 NFL season is sadly coming to a near end. Following the conclusion of Sunday’s exhilarating conference championship games, the Kansas City Chiefs are set to take on the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII next Sunday in Las Vegas, NV. 

While the Dolphins didn’t accomplish their preseason goal of hoisting the Lamar Hunt Trophy and representing the AFC in Sin City, they may be able to take some solace in knowing that the mostly successful 2023 season ended at the hands of a modern dynasty in Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. With that said, it’s time to turn a new leaf and look toward the 2024 season- a season that carries very high stakes for the Dolphins franchise at large. 

After the final second on the Super Bowl clock ticks and the confetti falls on the winning team, NFL fans almost immediately jump to off-season mode and think of ways that their team can be in a position to hoist the Lombardi Trophy the following season. It’s well documented that the NFL is an incredibly successful business, and the league strategically stagnates its three biggest off-season puzzle pieces- Free agency, the draft, and schedule release. 

The 2024 league year and free agency officially kick-off on March 13th at 4:00 p.m. The draft will then take place in Detroit from April 25-27. While the schedule release date hasn’t officially been announced, it’s fair to say it will take place roughly two weeks after the draft, like in previous years. Dates, kickoff times, and those dreaded primetime games (Dolphins fans get it) are certainly intriguing, but thankfully, we don’t have to wait any longer to know who the Fins are playing next season. 

In 2024, AFC teams are slated to have eight home games, while NFC teams will play nine. The AFC East is scheduled to play the AFC South, NFC West, and one game apiece against the NFC North in non-divisional games. As in tradition, teams will also play two games against teams from the two remaining divisions in its own conference. 

What exactly does all of this mean for the Dolphins? In a nutshell, divisional teams play 14 of the same 17 games every season. The entire AFC East will play its traditional six-game round robin, along with the Colts, Jaguars, Titans, and Texans from the AFC South and the 49ers, Cardinals, Rams, and Seahawks from the NFC West. With the Dolphins losing the AFC East title to the Bills in the final week of the 2023 season, they will now play the Browns, Raiders, and Packers next season instead of the Ravens, Chiefs, and Lions. 

Hard Rock Stadium has been a favorable home-field environment for the Dolphins in the post-canopy era, and they will welcome two familiar non-divisional foes to South Florida once again next season. The Raiders will be making their fourth trip to Hard Rock Stadium in eight seasons (2017, 2018, 2023, and 2024), and the Titans their fifth trip in nine seasons (2016, 2017, 2018, 2023, and 2024). The Titans have caused fits for the Dolphins in Miami, having won two of their last four, including this past season’s stunner on Monday Night Football. 

Other non-divisional teams making a trip to Miami include the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, and in-state rival Jacksonville Jaguars. The 49ers and Cardinals will be making their first trip to Hard Rock Stadium in eight years and are both looking to end long-standing misery in South Florida. The 49ers haven’t won in Miami since 1995, and the Cardinals last won in Miami in 2004. The Jaguars will be making just their fourth-ever trip south to Miami and will look to win against the Dolphins for the fourth time in five games between the in-state teams over the past decade. The Dolphins will finish out their home schedule against their AFC East rivals in, the Bills, Jets, and Patriots. 

When the Miami Dolphins venture away from sunny South Florida, they’re often supported by a fairly large contingency of fans for road games when Dolphins fans are able to get their hands on tickets. The Dolfans NYC MetLife takeover against the Jets is a yearly success, and this past season saw incredible fan showings in Los Angeles to open the season and Washington, D.C., late in the season.

Including traditional AFC East road games in Buffalo, Foxborough, and East Rutherford, Dolphins fans will have the opportunity to show their support on the road nine times next season, and there’s a possibility one of those opportunities will be in Brazil. At a league meeting in Dallas last month, Roger Goodell confirmed that the NFL will be playing in Brazil next season as the league continues to emphasize global growth. The Dolphins are currently the only NFL team with international marketing rights in Brazil, so it seems likely that they will be one of the teams chosen to play in the game. I will venture to guess their opponent will be the Green Bay Packers. 

West Coast Dolfans will have the opportunity to see the Fins in Seattle and Los Angeles next season. The Dolphins will make their first trip to the Emerald City since 2016 and haven’t won in the Pacific Northwest since 2001 when the Seahawks were part of the AFC! While the Dolphins played the Chargers in Los Angeles the past two seasons, they haven’t squared off against the Rams in LA since 2016. The Dolphins won that game 14-10 behind a gutty defensive effort and have fared quite well against the Rams throughout history. The Fins own a 12-2 all-time record against the Rams, including a 3-0 record in the City of Angels. 

The Dolphins will close out their road schedule against three up-and-coming conference opponents in the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, and Cleveland Browns. The Texans and Browns joined the Dolphins in the playoffs this past season, and the Colts were in contention until the final moments of Week 18 before dropping a heartbreaker against the Texans. If there’s one part of the schedule as a whole that really concerns me, it’s this grouping of teams based on the Dolphins’ history in these three stadiums and the type of mobile QB that each team employs. 

You may, or may not believe this, but the Dolphins have never won in Houston since the Texans entered the league in 2002! Miami is 0-5 all-time in Houston, and three of the five losses were by a combined six points. Their last trip to Houston came in 2018 and ended in a 42-23 beatdown on Thursday Night Football. Asking for their first-ever Houston win in star QB C.J. Stroud’s house next year is a tall order. 

The Dolphins will make their fifth trip to Lucas Oil Stadium since its opening in 2008 to take on a Colts team that overachieved behind Gardner Minshew in year one of Shane Steichen’s tenure. Promising QB Anthony Richardson will return next season, and his skillset could really give the Dolphins defense a lot of trouble. The Dolphins have won two of three in Indianapolis since Lucas Oil Stadium opened, including a 16-12 upset win in 2019. The Dolphins will make their first trip to Cleveland since 2019 and have not fared well in recent meetings against the Browns in Northeast Ohio. Since 1993, the Dolphins are 1-4 in Cleveland, with an average margin of defeat of 12.5 points. Hopefully, this game will be played in September or October, so that weather isn’t much of a factor. 

After Bill Belichick’s eventual 2014 Super Bowl Champion, New England Patriots lost a September game to the Kansas City Chiefs 41-14, he reiterated, “We’re on to Cincinnati” five times after the loss. Well, after a really disappointing three-week stretch that ended with a Wild Card loss to the possible back-to-back Super Bowl champion, Chiefs, Dolphins fans can channel their inner Belichick and shout, “We’re on to 2024!”