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Examining Miami's schedule: Games 14-17

ESPN.com's Miami Dolphins page continues to examine the team’s 2014 schedule.

Next we take a look at games 14-17, which could be crucial to Miami’s playoff hopes.

Game 14: Baltimore Ravens

Analysis: This is one of those hard-to-predict home games for Miami. The Ravens, who won the Super Bowl following the 2012 season, had a championship hangover last year and didn’t make the playoffs. But you get the sense Baltimore could be due for a bounce-back year and contend for the playoffs. The Ravens upended the Dolphins last year at home in a wild game. So this is certainly not an automatic win for Miami at home.

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

Game 15: at New England Patriots

Analysis: On Friday, I said Miami’s road trip to face the Denver Broncos is the hardest game on the schedule. The Dolphins' trip to New England could be their second-hardest game of 2014. Trips to Foxborough, Mass., usually do not end well for Miami. Even when the Dolphins play well in Gillette Stadium, such as last season, the Patriots often find a way to win. It also doesn’t help that this game will be in December, where it is cold and inclement weather could be a factor.

Degree of difficulty: 10

Game 16: Minnesota Vikings

Analysis: The Dolphins get a rare gift on the schedule late in the season. They play a rebuilding Vikings team at home. Minnesota, which doesn’t have a quarterback and could draft a rookie starter at the position this year, probably will not be in the playoff hunt by Week 16. This is one of those late-season games Miami should win at home.

Degree of difficulty: 4

Game 17: New York Jets

Analysis: The Dolphins will end their 2014 season the same way they ended 2013 with a home game against the rival Jets. New York dashed Miami’s playoff hopes last season with a 20-7 win in Week 17. It was a crushing blow to the Dolphins, who had to spend the entire offseason getting over that loss. There is a chance both Miami and New York could be fighting for a playoff spot in this game. That would make this matchup very intriguing to end the regular season. But Miami should be favored at home.

Degree of difficulty: 6