The Miami Dolphins will not be able to play their season opener at home on Sunday with Hurricane Irma, now a category 5 storm, looming in the ocean southeast of Florida. The NFL announced Wednesday morning that their game against the Bucs will be played in Week 11, on November 19.
The NFL held a conference call Tuesday morning to discuss contingency plans for the game. No decision was made during the call, though the league announced later in the day that the Dolphins’ Week 1 game against the Buccaneers will not be played Sunday in Miami.
Why does the game have to be moved? The National Hurricane Center said Tuesday morning Hurricane Irma has now intensified to a Category 5 storm, with wind speeds approaching 175 mph. Right now, the storm is threatening to hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands by Wednesday. It’s expected to hit the Florida coast this weekend.
State officials are already ordering limited evacuations in Miami-Dade County. A wider evacuation order could be issued Wednesday, officials said. Florida has already declared a state of emergency.
What are the contingency plans? The league has opted to reschedule the game for Week 11. Coincidentally, the Bucs and Dolphins both had that scheduled as their bye week.
The NFL released a statement on its decision Wendesday morning:
Due to the potential impact of Hurricane Irma on South Florida, the Miami Dolphins home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Hard Rock Stadium, will instead be played there in Week 11 on Sunday, November 19, the NFL announced today.
Week 11 was previously an open date for both clubs.
The NFL announced yesterday that in the interest of public safety in light of the continuing state of emergency, the league, in consultation with state and local officials as well as both clubs, would not play an NFL game in South Florida this week.
Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the impacted area.
Another option the NFL had was to play the game at a different location, similar to what the Bills did when a winter storm in 2014 forced the team to play a game against the Jets in Detroit instead of Buffalo a day later than originally scheduled.
Have the Dolphins done this before? Yes. Most recently in 2005, when they moved a game against the Chiefs to a Friday night instead of Sunday because of Hurricane Wilma. The year before that, the Dolphins moved a 1 p.m. Sunday game against the Steelers to 8:30 p.m. ET that night.
They’re even taking the contingency of deflating their practice facility, something they haven’t done in 12 years.
Dolphins currently deflating indoor practice facility -- "the bubble" -- for 1st time in 12 years. They last took this precaution for Wilma. pic.twitter.com/PXq3PWKWX6— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) September 6, 2017
What does this mean for the Bucs and Dolphins in 2017? It means 16 consecutive games without a break for Miami and Tampa Bay. That’s not ideal, but it’s the best choice of a handful of choices that weren’t ideal for either team. They will be the only two teams in the NFL without a bye week.