Miami Dolphins (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: Sunday, August, 8 at 1 p.m. EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium Cleveland, Ohio
by Vesper Abadon, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Mia -1/Cle +1
Over/Under Total: 41.5
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The Miami Dolphins, who went 2-3 in the preseason, made a big splash in free agency this offseason by adding weapons on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Dolphins signed wide receiver Mike Wallace, who was paid nearly $30 million in guaranteed money to stretch the field and help open up the run game. After trading slot receiver Davone Bess to the Cleveland Browns, the Dolphins signed Brandon Gibson to shore up the receiving corps behind Wallace and Brian Hartline.
On the ground, Miami let Reggie Bush go and have put their faith in last years fourth-round pick running back Lamar Miller, though Daniel Thomas will shoulder some of the load. With Wallace pulling opposing defenses from the box, the Dolphins hope to improve upon last years 17th-ranked rushing game with an average of 112.6 yards per game (ypg).
All that said, if the Dolphins offense is going to succeed, itll be up to second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill to pull it off. The Dolphins ranked a lowly 27th in passing last year after Tannehill went 282 of 484 for 3,294 yards, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, good for a 76.1 rating. Not bad for a rookie quarterback, but not great either. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman expects big things from Tannehill, and so do the fans in South Florida. Tannehill lost tackle Jake Long, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft (and the last player on the roster from the Bill Parcells era) to the Rams, but if he can deliver, the Dolphins could develop a feared/balanced offensive attack. Much like they did with Dan Marino, the Dolphins will sink or swim with their quarterback.
Defensively, the Dolphins were ranked 21st overall in 2012 13th against the run and 27th against the pass and were seventh for points allowed in the league. Granted, that year was the first under defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, who instituted a 4-3 scheme. With a year gone by, things should get better, especially with Cameron Wake anchoring the defensive front alongside Paul Soliai, Randy Starks and rookie Dion Jordan. Even though the Dolphins lost players like linebacker Kevin Burnett, cornerback Sean Smith and linebacker Karlos Dansby, they helped fill the gaps by luring Dannell Ellerbe from the Ravens and adding linebacker Philip Wheeler and cornerback Brent Grimes.
While the Dolphins were in their second year of rebuilding, the Cleveland Browns were essentially starting over after going 5-12 in 2012; in fact, thats the record theyve amassed in three of the past five years (the other two were 4-12). Rod Chudzinski is the new head coach the seventh since the team returned to Cleveland 14 years ago while Norv Turner has been brought in as the new offensive coordinator, the tenth since 1999.
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New CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi failed to make a big splash in free agency, but they did manage a few changes. Gone are Josh Cribbs, Colt McCoy and Ben Watson and in come WR Davone Bess, WR David Nelson and LB Paul Kruger.
On the other hand, the Browns had an abysmal draft. They selected LSUs LB Barkevious Mingo in the first round, didnt have a second and then took CB Leon McFadden in the third round. They then traded their fourth and fifth round picks for future picksa moved that signaled their long-term plans opposed to getting anything going in 2013.
With that said, second-year QB Brandon Weeden, who is 29 (older than Alex Smith, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco and the same age as Aaron Rodgers) looks to improve the Browns 25th-ranked offense. The additions of Bess and Nelson should help him do it through the air, while a solid offensive line led by LT Joe Thomas will pave the way for RB Trent Richardson to have a solid year.
Vesper Abadons Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I expect the Browns to toil in mediocrity for yet another year. They havent made the Playoffs since 2002 (tied for the second-longest drought in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and behind only the Buffalo Bills), and that streak will no doubt continue. The Browns are confident theyve acquired the right pieces to build something special, but thats a tune thats been sung in Cleveland year after year. Only time will tell if this time proves true.
On the flip side, the Dolphins are building something special in South Florida. In fact, some experts are even predicting them to win the AFC East over the New England Patriots. While I dont know about that, I do expect them to continue their steady transition into a serious contender.
Miamis front seven against the Browns line will be an interesting battle. I wouldnt be surprised to see both teams struggle on the ground, which will force them to take to the air. If thats the case, Tannehill has the superior aerial arsenal. I look for the Dolphins to win this game and cover the spread with ease.