Browns at Dolphins: Preview, Predictions, and More
Miami Dolphins vs Cleveland Browns
The Miami Dolphins finally come home after spending the first two weeks of the new season on the road. After tough losses against two of the league’s best teams, the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, the Dolphins get what, on paper, should be a significantly easier matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
The Dolphins recently renovated their home stadium and are looking to put on a show in the first game for the home crowd with their first win of the season. You couldn’t ask for a better chance to do it than against the widely panned Browns—and a short-handed Cleveland team at that.
Cleveland comes into Miami completely reeling. They started the season off by losing their starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III, to a shoulder injury. Things didn’t get any better for the Browns in week 2, as they lost new starter Josh McCown, also to a shoulder injury. The news in the days before their tilt against the Dolphins only gets worse, as Wednesday saw rookie wide receiver Corey Coleman go down with a broken hand. Will the Browns have enough bodies to put up a fight in Miami?
Dolphins Keys to Victory
Set the tone early: The Miami Dolphins played six straight quarters of flat, largely apathetic football before finally hitting their stride in the second half of last week’s game. Though the light finally came on, it was too little, too late after falling into a huge hole early against the Patriots. If the Dolphins can take that momentum from the second half of last week’s game and come into Miami firing on all cylinders early, it should prove to be a long day for the Browns.
Bring the pressure: When they’re on their game, the Miami Dolphins’ front line is one of the best in the NFL. Cleveland strolls into town starting their fifth quarterback in as many games. Cody Kessler, the starter on Sunday, is a rookie that started the season as a third-string quarterback sitting behind two re-treads. If the Dolphins can pressure him early and rattle him, things could get really ugly really quickly for the Browns.
Trust the system: This key to victory doubles as a key to the entire season, as well as to the fan-base as a whole. Trust the system. It’s easy to look at this team and the way the past two weeks have played out and think “here we go again.” It’s important to remember that this is an entirely new staff. There are a ton of new faces in the organization. Things take time, and it’s important to realize that. If this team comes out down on themselves that they are, once again, 0-2 to start the season, it’s going to be a rough day.
Browns Keys to Victory
Keep things simple: Cody Kessler is a rookie quarterback. He started the season as the third-string quarterback and will be making his first start ever. It’s just not realistic to think he has a complete command of the system yet. If Kessler is going to have any success on Sunday, the Browns are going to need to simplify the offense for him. Let him find his rhythm early. If he can get comfortable, the Dolphins defense is vulnerable. There will be plays to be made.
Rely on the running game: Not to sound like a broken record, but Cody Kessler is a rookie quarterback making his first start. Corey Coleman is out for an extended period of time with a broken hand. If the Browns are going to have any hope of staying competitive, the responsibility is going to land on the running backs. For the foreseeable future, the team is only going to go as far as the running game takes them.
Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson have a lot of talent. If the team trusts them to be the focus, they can be okay. The Miami rush defense is abysmal right now. They have given up the second-most yards through two weeks. Lean on Crowell and Johnson, and you’ll stay in the game.
Defense: “Offense wins games, defense wins championships.” It’s a clichéd saying, but it’s true for the most part. If you don’t have a solid defense, chances are slim that you’re going to be successful, especially in today’s NFL. The reality for the Cleveland Browns right now is that their defense isn’t good enough. They’re giving up the seventh most points in the league. They’ll get a bit of a break on Sunday against a team that has been struggling, but if they rely on that they’re in trouble. Miami showed on Sunday that if things are clicking, they can score in bunches.
Point Spread: Miami -9.5
Moneyline: Miami -450, Cleveland +375
Miami is the healthier, stronger team, period. This is a game they should win. It will be a barometer for just how bad this season could be. If they come out of Sunday with another loss, the panic meter will be off the charts.
Pick: Miami Dolphins: 28 Cleveland Browns:10