Dolphins Must Win Game One At Cleveland
By Joe Scumaci
Take a look at the Dolphins 2013 regular season schedule.
Is it safe to label Week 1 a "must win" in the Dog Pound against the Cleveland Browns?
Now obviously calling game 1 of 16, a "must win" is a bit overdramatic. But looking at Miami's schedule, it is easy to see the first 5 games can be considered the hardest part of Miami's schedule. Three of their first five games being on the road. Three of their first five opponents were in the playoffs last year. They play at Indianapolis week 2, then the Falcons at home week 3 and Baltimore at home week 5, before Miami's week 6 bye.
Sandwiched between the Falcons and Ravens is a road contest with the Saints. The Saints had a historically bad defense in 2012, but they will return their head coach Sean Payton from his one-year suspension. With a Hall of Fame quarterback-to-be in Drew Brees, and weapons all over the field offensively, a Sunday night primetime affair in the Superdome will not be easy.
We know the Miami's coaches want to use these first five games as a measuring stick to see how good this revamped Miami Dolphins team is compared to the league's best.
If you want to get another perspective on the importance of Miami's first game, just seek Vegas' opinion of the Browns and game one. Most Vegas outlets have the Browns win total set at 6. Cleveland won five games last year and subsequently fired their head coach. This preseason, they have looked good offensively, as sophomore quarterback Brandon Weeden has been impressive in August, going 18-25 for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Vegas also has the Dolphins as a very small favorite over the Browns. They must believe the Dolphins are the better team, but with it being the opening game and away from home (Miami went 2-6 on road in 2012), they aren't too confident the better team will win the game. The Dolphins should not sleep on this first game and look ahead to the gauntlet awaiting them, or they will head to Indianapolis Week 1 with a 0-1 record.
If the Dolphins were to go 2-3 those first 5 games, fans should not hang their heads. It's a very tough schedule for a team that was severely overhauled this past offseason and will be working on chemistry throughout the season. Anything worse than 2-3 could be a crippling way to kick off the 2013 season and put the Dolphins in a major hole and having to play catch-up.
Maybe they find a way to steal a game and head 3-2 or better into their bye week. Fans should be elated and hopeful that the Dolphins can be a playoff contender. But it all starts with Week 1 at Cleveland, where the Dolphins must win, in order to start their season off right.