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Can Dolphins win within AFC East?

One of the headaches for the Miami Dolphins the past two seasons under head coach Joe Philbin has been the team’s inability to win within the AFC East. Philbin is a dreadful 4-8 against division teams since taking over the Dolphins in 2013. It’s one of the primary reasons Philbin is a below .500 coach (15-17) in Miami and is on the hot seat entering his third season.

Can the Dolphins turn things around against the AFC East this year? Winning within the division is the quickest way for Miami to end its playoff drought of six years.

Here is a preview of Miami’s AFC East matchups:

New England Patriots

Games: Week 1 and Week 15

Analysis: The Patriots have been the beasts of the AFC East for more than a decade. The Dolphins were able to forge a split against New England last season with a big win against the Patriots in Week 15 at Sun Life Stadium. The win set Miami up for a push to the playoffs, but the Dolphins collapsed down the stretch against a pair of division foes. Last season was a down year for the Patriots because of injuries, but they still cruised to 12 wins and won the division by a landslide. The Dolphins must at least split with New England to have a chance to win the division. The Patriots are legit Super Bowl contenders assuming all of their healthy players return. Miami’s best chance to beat New England is in Week 1 at Sun Life Stadium.

Difficulty level (On scale of 1-to-10): 9

Buffalo Bills

Games: Week 2 and Week 11

Analysis: The Dolphins were embarrassingly swept by the lowly Bills last season. Buffalo won six games, but two came against Miami. The Bills also played backup quarterback Thad Lewis in both games. This is the matchup the Dolphins can’t seem to shake. Buffalo is a team built to beat Miami. The Bills are a strong running team, which wore out Miami’s shaky run defense. The Bills also had a stout defensive line and players who can rush the passer. Miami’s offensive line was atrocious last season. Beating Buffalo isn’t difficult for most teams, but it is for Miami. However, if the Dolphins want to take the next step and get to the playoffs, they might have to sweep the Bills, which is a tall task.

Difficulty level: 8

New York Jets

Games: Week 13 and 17

Analysis: The Dolphins won’t face the Jets until later in the season. But that doesn’t make this divisional rivalry any less important. These games could have major playoff implications for both teams. The Dolphins and Jets both believe this is their year to make the postseason. The Patriots are the favorites to win the AFC East, and there might be one wild card in the division. The Dolphins and Jets have had a strong rivalry for many years. Recently, this matchup has taken an odd turn, as each team has been able to win on the road the past two seasons. A split seems to be the norm in this series. But if either team could sweep, that could increase its chances to make the playoffs.

Difficulty level: 7