Dolphins' road gets rocky in 2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
For Dolfans, this item will be as pleasurable as wet socks ... or maybe chewing on tin foil.

Yes, I know your amazing team is on its way to the playoffs. Rookie head coach Tony Sparano won 11 games and the AFC East championship.

Sounds like a great foundation year, the type of turnaround campaign that leads folks to believe happy days are ahead for a long, long time.

But let me remind everyone Eric Mangini won 10 games in his first season, too.

Romeo Crennel won 10 games last year.

Both of them were fired on Monday. Both of them also are former Bill Parcells assistants.

I'm not saying there's a trend developing, but Monday served as a valuable reminder: Success is contained by the calendar. Too many circumstances change from season to season. Injuries, free agency, drafts and coaching changes play a role.

So does the schedule.

The AFC East had an easy schedule in 2008. It played the AFC West and NFC West, divisions that produced one winning record -- not each, but combined. Western divisions had an aggregate 45-83 record, a .352 winning percentage.

In 2009, the AFC East will meet the AFC South and NFC South. That's four playoff teams. Nobody in the NFC South had a losing record.

On top of that, finishing atop the AFC East means the Dolphins must face every first-place AFC team. So they'll also draw the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers.

Dolphins at home (dates and times usually announced in April): Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Dolphins on the road: Atlanta Falcons, Bills, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Patriots, Jets, Chargers, Tennessee Titans.