Sunday, October 14, 2007

This Game Worries Me

The Miami Dolphins are not a good football team right now, and the Cleveland Browns should -- and damn well better -- win their game against them this afternoon. On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to worry about this game, because it provides the Browns with an opportunity to stub their toes pretty badly.

The Browns should win because the Dolphins have a terrible defense, have just lost their starting QB for the season and haven't exactly been setting the league on fire with their offense. The Browns better win because going into the bye week with a 3-3 record will be quite an accomplishment, and give them a lot of momentum going into what is a relatively easy schedule for the remainder of the season. In contrast, a loss to the lowly Dolphins will deservedly be regarded as yet another missed opportunity for this team. It will highlight the Browns shortcomings, and help turn the bye week into another fan and media feeding frenzy about all of the things that are wrong with the team.

Why am I worried about the prospect of playing a 0-5 team? Several reasons, actually. First, although the Dolphins defense has been terrible, there's one team in the AFC with a defensive unit that's statistically even worse. Guess who? Yup, the Browns have a worse defense than the Dolphins. You can look it up.

Besides, if you take a look at the Dolphins defense, it still has several marquee players, including Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas and Kellen Winslow's best friend, Joey Porter. It strikes me as a unit that is going to wake up sometime, and when it does, watch out. The Dolphins defense showed some signs of that last week, when it managed to hold the Texans to only 74 yards rushing. Part of that resurgence may be attributable to the return of Zach Thomas, who missed a couple of games with a concussion.

The Browns offense, on the other hand, may find itself a little shorthanded this week. Joe Jurevicius and Jamal Lewis are both questionable. Jurevicius is clutch in the red zone, and his absence is going to be noticeable if he can't go. If Lewis can't play or isn't 100%, the Browns may have an unexpectedly difficult time moving the ball on the ground against Miami. (Update: Lewis is out.)

Then there's Miami's record itself. Yes, the Dolphins are 0-5, but they are 12 points away from being 3-2. They've lost by a field goal to the Redskins, the Jets and the Texans. The Dolphins just aren't as bad as their record might indicate. Finally, there's the Cleo Lemon factor. He did a decent job in relief of Trent Green last week, and the Browns pass defense is so terrible that it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him have a big day.

In the end, I think that the Browns just have too many weapons for the Dolphins, even in their depleted state. I think Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow will have big days, and that Jason Wright will do well enough to give the Browns a running game if Lewis can't go. But make no mistake about it, this is a game that can go terribly wrong for the Browns, and there may be a lot at stake for the future of this season if it does.

Browns 28, Dolphins 20.

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