I have written recent articles about the 2013 home schedule for the Miami Dolphins (home sched article is HERE) and also about the 2013 Dolphins road schedule (road sched article is HERE). In a recent interview I did with Keith Sims for the show that I co-host with Rant Sports writer Ben Grimaldi – Ranting With Ben and Craig (@RantingBenCraig). I asked him, “If I were to tell you that I saw the future and the ’13 Dolphins do make the playoffs, what would come to your mind immediately about what they must have accomplished in order to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008?” His answer was, “a quick start”, and he emphasized that Week 1 at the Cleveland Browns is a must-win game for Joe Philbin and his squad (article on Philbin’s second season vs previous Dolphins coaches second season is HERE).
Calling out Week 1 as a must-win stuck out for me. Here I am two weeks later writing about it because I understand where Sims is coming from. The ‘Phins have a big boy on their block, the New England Patriots, who annually win six to eight games at home. This translates to a .500 road record and puts them in double-digits for wins, making them tough to beat in the division. At some point Tom Brady and the “Brady Bunch” will not be the division bullies anymore, but these days it looks like a wild-card birth is Miami’s best chance to qualify for the postseason.
The Browns have a new regime, and are very much improved throughout the roster. That said, we would likely agree that the Dolphins, right here and right now anyway, look better than the Browns. Beating the Browns to establish yourself as better than them (and to give yourself the head-to-head tiebreaker) may not mean much down the road, but the away victory over a conference foe is always big. Conference record is often a key tie-breaker. The 2013 Dolphins will need to stack the tie-breakers in their favor, as they are unlikely to finish better than the AFC North second place team. Even that division’s third place team could be in play for the postseason as that division has the potential to be deep. Plus, add the fact that the Dolphins are unlikely to be as good as the top two teams in the AFC South, and we see the need for a quick start for the ‘Phins.
The year 2012 got off to a poor start as the Houston Texans used a late second quarter run to establish themselves as being in control of that game. Only a Marcus Thigpen punt return put a smile on the faces of Dolphins fans as the team was trounced 30-10. Going into that opener, the Texans were clearly the better team. The ’12 Dolphins weren’t going to threaten to be a playoff team, but the ’13 Dolphins have loftier expectations.
I do see why a knowledgeable football mind like Sims is particularly focused on this game as the team is in a situation where they will need to beat teams that they are better than (especially AFC teams). The team has just a pair of season opening victories over the past decade (2005 and 2010). Who is already excited about Sunday September 8, 2013? I sure am and so is Sims!