The Miami Dolphins will kick off their 2013 NFL season tomorrow when the team takes on the Cleveland Browns. While this match-up may have looked like an instant win for Miami in the past, do not over-look the new-look Browns.
Cleveland, who will welcome Miami to their turf tomorrow at 1 PM eastern, has a much improved offense to pair with an under-rated defense. Although the team will be without second-year WR Josh Gordon, who is serving a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, the team still has plenty of weapons on offense for second-year QB Brandon Weeden to work with.
Both of these young squads are certainly on the rise and tomorrow’s game should turn out to be an old-school, smash-mouth style football game.
So let’s take a look at a few match-ups you should be watching tomorrow:
WR Mike Wallace vs. CB Joe Haden:
Wallace and Haden have seen each other twice a year for the entirety of Haden’s career, therefore these two know each other quite well. Wallace has amazing speed, while Haden is one of the league’s best press corners. It will be interesting to see if Wallace can get a clean release off the line, if not it may interrupt his timing with second-year QB Ryan Tannehill. That being said, if Haden totally whiffs, Wallace may end up taking one to the house.
WR Travis Benjamin vs. Whoever covers him…:
This is the match-up I am most worried about. It makes sense to put either Patterson or Grimes on Bess and the other on former North Carolina Tar-Heel, Greg Little. That being said, are you comfortable with CB Nolan Carroll covering Benjamin with his blazing speed? I know I’m not. Rookies Will Davis and Jamar Taylor have been ruled out of tomorrow’s game, therefore QB Brandon Weeden will likely look to pick on Carroll and CB RJ Stanford anytime he has a chance. Yikes..
RB Trent Richardson vs. Miami’s front seven:
I love Richardson. I loved him coming out of Alabama and I love him now. So don’t call me biased here, but I think he’s going to have a hard time getting anything going on the ground against Miami’s stout run defense. Miami spent money this past off-season to revamp the linebacking corp by swapping Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett for Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. Miami is now more athletic at the linebacker position, which should lead to more big, impact plays. Richardson will get his touches and will probably leave the game with a score, but don’t be surprised if Miami’s defense holds him under 80 yards rushing.
LT Joe Thomas vs. DE’s Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan:
Joe Thomas is one of the top three left tackles in the NFL. Thomas possesses a rare combination of strength and quick feet for a man his size. But he will be going up against two ultra-athletic pass rushers in Dion Jordan and Olivier Vernon. Vernon is quite short, but he has a stocky base and uses that to his advantage. Jordan, on the other hand, is a tall and very lanky rookie who has insane measureables for a defensive end. Thomas may end up having his hands full with these two young pass rushers.
Cleveland’s pass rush vs. Miami’s inconsistent offensive line:
Cleveland boasts one of the league’s most under-rated pass rushes in the league, in my opinion. With guys like Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger coming off the edge, Miami’s offensive tackles, Jonathan Martin and Tyson Clabo, must be on-top of their game Sunday. Cleveland will be without their first-round pick, Barkevious Mingo, which will help Miami out somewhat, but the team’s offensive line must be in tip-top shape if QB Ryan Tannehill is to find his new targets GM Jeff Ireland has supplied.
Cleveland’s run defense vs. Miami’s run attack:
Cleveland, like Miami, has had a pretty good run defense in recent years. DB TJ Ward leads the pack against an unknown and unheralded Miami rushing attack. Second-year tailback Lamar Miller will get the start tomorrow with RB Daniel Thomas also seeing carries. Miller had a decent rookie season with limited touches and will look to make a name for himself. Thomas, on the other hand, has been a bit of a disappointment ever since his prolific start to his rookie season – had a pretty good game against Cleveland going for 23 carries, 95 yards, 3 receptions, 27 yards and 1 touchdown. If Miami has a hard time getting their rushing attack going, QB Ryan Tannehill may have a hard time finding his receivers open down field.
Have another match-up you will be watching? Leave me a comment in the comment section below.
Tyler’s keys to the game:
- Execution, execution, execution. Let’s execute on offense. No negative plays.
- Win the turnover battle. Take care of the football and take the ball away on defense.
- Set up the deep ball with the run. Pound it early to wear the defense down.
- Don’t be afraid to take some shots deep with guys not named Mike Wallace.
- Don’t allow WR Travis Benjamin to get behind the defense. He’s too fast.
- Convert third downs. This offense was terrible at it during the preseason.
- Sacks, pressures and tackles for loss add up. Make it happen.
- Stop RB Trent Richardson and make QB Brandon Weeden beat you with his arm.
- Special teams. Win the field position battle and execute on Special Teams.
- Lastly, play with some swagger. Own it.
Prediction: Miami 24 Cleveland 20