Is Buffalo A Must Win Game?
By Brian Miller
The title of this article will surely spur at least a little debate, if not a lot. Not because I’m going to spend the next few minutes of your life explaining why the first game of the season could be a must win game for the Miami Dolphins, but because a good portion of you will take to calling me an idiot or worse, for even suggesting that the first game of a new season could be that important. O.k. go for it. My skin is thick enough.
Is the Buffalo Bills game a must win game for the Miami Dolphins?
While I doubt many of you will open your minds to the prospect of any game in the first half of the season being that important, I can’t help but amuse myself by asking that question.
In some ways, yes. Yes it is.
The Miami Dolphins thought they found an identity two years ago when they ran the Wild Cat to perfection as the manhandled their way into the playoffs. Last year, the WC lost much of it’s surprise and the Phins fell short of their playoff goal. Now, year 3 of the Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano is up on us and the team no longer has an identity. In fact, it has possibly more questions surrounding it.
Consider year one for a quick second. No one was safe, roster turnover was huge and no one was surprised. It was a must. Last year’s off-season brought much of the same. This year, not so much. At least not outside of Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall. But neither player brings an identity that reshapes the team on either side of the ball. The power running game is in flux with the depth issues on the Oline and the defense is a youth movement. So there are a lot of questions on both sides.
In both seasons past, the Dolphins lost their opening 3 games. Rebounded in year one to win the division. That was behind the surprise success of the WC. Last year they rebounded a tad too late and faltered in the end and missed the dance. Can “THIS” team afford that same opening issues? I don’t think so.
The Phins open on the road at Buffalo and a loss would hardly put their season in doubt, however, they travel from Buffalo to Minnesota for week 2 before coming home to face division rivals New York and New England.
In other words, the easiest game on the opening schedule is the Bills. Following the first 4 games the Dolphins have their bye week. When they return, they face Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincy, and Tennessee. One of the toughest opening schedules in the NFL. Has these Miami Dolphins shown you enough to believe they are hands down the favorite to win all of those games? Not even close.
That is the kind of schedule that can get your head coach fired mid-season. Following that horrid test, they get a run against the Bears, Raiders, and Browns before getting a second helping of the Jets, Bills, and Patriots. With the Lions between the last two division games. In other words, no hiccups along the way.
Momentum is something that is preached at all levels of football. Hell it’s preached at all levels of sports. Opening the season with a win builds confidence and starts that all important momentum. The Dolphins have not won in Buffalo in 5 seasons. And to a degree, they almost must beat them to open the season.
It’s easy to be a homer and say that the Dolphins “can” beat this team and “can” beat that team but reality is a different world. The Dolphins “CAN” beat anyone. So can the Lions, Browns, and Raiders. As they say, “Any given Sunday”. But “any given Sunday” is used to describe teams that really shouldn’t be winning games. No one says that when referring to the Colts, Patriots, or Saints. Will they be saying it about the Dolphins?
The truth is that these Miami Dolphins can’t afford to lose the first game of the season. It is that important. Getting the season off to a good start, even if sloppy, puts the team on the right path. It gives them confidence the following week to face Brett “I don’t have any receivers and I should have stayed retired” Favre. It gives them confidence to come home and open their stadium for the 2010 season with their orange jerseys and knock of the Jets. It gives them confidence to take on the Patriots at home. In other words, a win at Buffalo could give the team what it needs to beat the Vikings. A win against the Vikings and there is momentum to take the home stand.
A loss at Buffalo and they will start looking at last year and the year before. A “here we go again” with 3 in a row to start the season. But looking at this year first 8 games, I’m not so sure that an 0-3 start is going to be something this team can recover from.
And that is why I think, maybe, just maybe, the Buffalo game has a little more importance to the start of the season than just an opening day win.