Miami Dolphins schedule analysis

Breakdown: The Miami Dolphins were doomed in their bid to be a contender last season because they won only a single home game.

They'll have an immediate opportunity to stash those problems in the past with consecutive home dates to begin the season. They'll host the New England Patriots in a potential statement game in the Monday night opener and the Houston Texans in Week 2.

After that, however, the Dolphins won't play in Sun Life Stadium for more than a month. They'll have three straight road games and a bye before they perform in front of their fans again. The biggest game will be Monday night in Week 6 against the New York Jets.

That stretch also means there will be a bunch of home games in the second half of the season. Five of the Dolphins' final eight games will be in comfy South Florida.

"It's not only imperative that we play well right from the start," Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano said in a statement released by the team, "we are going to have to show continual improvement throughout the year since we end the season with three straight divisional games."

Complaint department: Because of their detachment from the rest of the division, the Dolphins once again have the farthest to travel among any AFC East club. They'll log about 20,480 miles. Only the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers will travel more miles in the conference. At least the Dolphins get the Raiders at home this year, but they must play at San Diego.

Holiday greetings: The Dolphins will visit the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, visit the Patriots on Christmas Eve and close out the season at home versus the Jets on New Year's Day.

The Thanksgiving game in Cowboys Stadium will be Sparano's first since leaving the staff and taking several assistants with him.

Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall must be looking forward to a personal holiday in Week 7 against his old team, the Denver Broncos.

Dolphins Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Monday, Sep. 12, New England, 7:00 PM

Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Houston, 4:15 PM

Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at San Diego, 4:15 PM

Week 5: BYE

Week 6: Monday, Oct. 17, at NY Jets, 8:30 PM

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Denver, 1:00 PM

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at NY Giants, 1:00 PM

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Kansas City, 1:00 PM

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Washington, 1:00 PM

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, Buffalo, 1:00 PM

Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 24, at Dallas, 4:15 PM

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Oakland, 1:00 PM

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Philadelphia, 1:00 PM

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM

Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at New England, 1:00 PM

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, NY Jets, 1:00 PM