Examining Dolphins' schedule: Games 9-13

The Miami Dolphins enter the 2014 season with the NFL’s 12th-toughest strength of schedule. This week we are taking a game-by-game look to get a feel for Miami’s chances of winning.

Next up, we examine games 9-13, which could be crucial for the Dolphins to make a push for the playoffs.

Game 9: at Detroit Lions

Analysis: This is one of those tricky games on Miami’s schedule that is hard to predict. The Lions are an up-and-down team with talent but little consistency. They can beat most teams but also lose to most teams. This is a game the Dolphins could steal on the road. However, Miami must bring its A-game in the dome to win this one.

Degree of difficulty: (1 is easy, 10 is difficult): 6.5

Game 10: Buffalo Bills

Analysis: This is a Thursday night contest and one of two games Miami plays in prime time this season. The Dolphins must overcome a short week of playing on the road Sunday with little time to prepare against the Bills. The Dolphins have struggled against Buffalo as of late. Miami was swept by the Bills in 2013 and lost three of the past four games. If the Dolphins are a legitimate contender for the playoffs, they should win this game. But Miami cannot overlook Buffalo under any circumstances due to the tough matchup.

Degree of difficulty: 5.5

Game 11: at Denver Broncos

Analysis: This is the toughest game on Miami’s schedule. The Dolphins will travel to play the reigning AFC champions in Denver. The game also is in late November, where weather may become an issue. Unless there is an injury to Broncos Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning, I have a hard time seeing Miami winning this game. The only good news is the Dolphins will have 10 days to prepare for the tough and talented Broncos.

Degree of difficulty: 10

Game 12: at New York Jets

Analysis: The Dolphins have a way of playing some of their best football in New Jersey. This is a rivalry game for the Dolphins, and this team usually shows well on the road against the Jets. Game 12 could be another opportunity for Miami to steal a game on the road, which would be big in December. However, the Dolphins could be beat up at this point after playing three road games during this month-long stretch.

Degree of difficulty: 7