When the Miami Dolphins take the field on Sunday they will do so as the last remaining team to not have a home game. Entering week three of the 2013 NFL season the Dolphins, Vikings, and Titans all opened with two on the road. With the Vikings and Titans kicking off their home openers at 1:00 the Dolphins will be the last team to open their stadium.
Over the last five years the Dolphins have struggled to put together wins in their own stadium. Last season, Joe Philbin‘s first, the Dolphins won five of their eight scheduled contests. There is no doubt that teams who win at home have a better chance of making the playoffs. First you take care of your home field then your division, then the rest of the league week to week. This week the opening task will be a good one.
The Atlanta Falcons are a team many expect to be challenging San Francisco and Seattle for the NFC Championship. They are not however perfect. Last week Atlanta beat the St. Louis Rams but in week one they lost to the New Orleans Saints, the following weeks opponent for the Dolphins. Atlanta will be beat up and nicked and will have several starters out of the game including RB Steven Jackson. While Roddy White is in and out of practice and will be questionable for the game the Falcons still have a plethora of talent.
Leading the teams offense will be Matt Ryan who won his first playoff game last year. He will have the speedster Julio Jones to throw to on Sunday and old reliable TE Tony Gonzalez. The Dolphins have given up more yards to TE’s in the first two weeks than any other AFC East team and possibly the entire NFL.
Miami will be short Paul Soliai as indications seem to show him missing this Sunday. However they do have depth along the defensive line and Randy Starks will likely get the nod to replace him.
For Miami however a home game is not a lock. Fan support has been dragging its heels for years after poor showings on the field. Last year the Dolphins got crushed by a visiting Titans team. It’s something the Dolphins will need to avoid. There are some who will say this is a “must win” game but all games in some way are “Must Wins”. This game has larger implications to the Dolphins. A win at home will go a long way to showing fans that these Dolphins are here to play.
Miami has lacked a true home-field advantage dating back to the early days of HC Dave Wannstedt. Mainly due to a lack of excitement on the field. Joe Philbin is trying to change that. Miami suddenly has a dynamic offense in the making and the more reps the offense takes the better they will get and it’s likely the team has yet to implement the entire playbook. Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Charles Clay are starting to move this offense while a strong defensive unit is finding way to take the ball away.
Still, winning will change more than anything and the Dolphins sitting on 2-0 have fans smiling but not quite smiling from ear to ear. They want to…they need to…it’s there but it’s tempered enthusiasm. This is the time for the Dolphins to take back their home field and win back their fans for good.