Every win carries a little extra value when you’re a Cleveland Browns fan. For a franchise that hasn’t won more than five games in a regular season since 2007, getting off on the right foot at home against the Miami Dolphins would go a long way for this franchise. At 1 p.m. ET on Sept. 8, we’ll see two teams that reeled in huge free-agent hauls finally put that talent on display in a game of consequence.
Week 1 Spread: Browns 1-point underdogs hosting Dolphins
Browns Breakdown and Preseason Effect: The Browns could wear a chip on their shoulder for being underdogs at home against another franchise that’s struggled mightily in recent years. The Browns 5-11 mark in 2012 only puts them two games behind the Dolphins and Cleveland played in a division with three teams at or above .500, compared to the AFC East’s one (New England Patriots).
Cleveland has likewise pulled off one of the most high-profile free-agent hauls this offseason, making use of their ample cap space by adding edge rusher Paul Kruger and defensive end Desmond Bryant. These will be the two key cogs for the Browns’ transition to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who employed this formation rather brilliantly with the Arizona Cardinals. With a healthy cornerback Joe Haden back to threatening elite status, this defense could be a sneaky candidate to go from among the worst to an excellent unit.
The Browns lost a number of close games last season and that happens more often when your quarterback is terrible. Brandon Weeden finished last among starting quarterbacks in 2012, via Pro Football Focus grading, and even an improvement to mediocre could give Cleveland every chance to top the Dolphins. Miami also overhauled its linebacking corps, so if Trent Richardson delivers on his third-overall talent it could provide a really tough test as that unit gels.