Dolphins vs. Browns: 5 Matchups Miami Must Exploit on Sunday
Since 1990, only 12.4 percent of teams that started 0-2 managed to comeback and reach the postseason, according to Adam Schefter.
So, the odds are already stacked heavily against the Dolphins, and a loss to the Browns on Sunday would prove absolutely devastating. The number of 0-3 starters to reach the playoffs is probably astronomically low, and Tony Sparano would be in serious danger of losing the locker room after such a start.
In order for Sparano and the 'Fins to avoid such a scenario, they must defeat Cleveland by exploiting these five mismatches.
The Browns Have the League's 24th-Ranked Rushing Defense
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Despite facing the likes of Cedric Benson and Joseph Addai through the first two weeks of the season, the Browns' rush defense ranks 24th in the league. Both are quality backs, but neither are serious threats anymore.
Cleveland has already surrendered a combined 248 rushing yards, and Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas should have a field day on the Browns' young front seven—although rookie defensive tackle Phil Taylor could create some problems.
Expect Miami to lean heavily on Thomas, who enjoyed a promising debut last week against the Texans. This is also a prime opportunity for Bush to breakout and prove his value.
The Browns will struggle to contain Miami's complementary tandem, and the 'Fins should exploit this mismatch.
Cleveland's Lack of Depth at Wide Receiver
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Everybody has been slamming Miami's secondary for their horrific performances, but we should keep in mind that they have faced two prolific offenses. Tom Brady is on pace for roughly three million passing yards, and the Texans boast a potent and extremely well-balanced attack.
But this week, Sean Smith, Vontae Davis and Co. catch a break.
Cleveland's wide receiver corps is headlined by players like Mohamed Massaquoi and rookie Greg Little, neither of whom present any real mismatches to the Dolphins' secondary. Moreover, the Browns' passing offense ranks 25th in the league, and that number should only plummet further after this weekend's game.
Peyton Hillis Is Overrated; Browns Don't Have a Change-of-Pace Back
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In a blatantly fixed process, Browns running back Peyton Hillis defeated the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson and Patrick Willis for the right to grace the cover of Madden 12. The tournament was allegedly determined by a fan vote, but there's simply no way Hillis had that much support.
Nevertheless, he is now heralded as a star, and while he is the focal point of Cleveland's offense, the Dolphins should be able to contain him. Hillis is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry despite two very favorable matchups to start his season.
Even though Miami's rushing defense ranks just 22nd in the league right now, they have been forced to concentrate and prepare for the pass—not to mention, the Pats and Texans have great rushing attacks. Expect the 'Fins to limit Hillis, and Cleveland's lack of a scat-back will make this a favorable matchup for Miami.
The Browns Haven't Faced a Tough Team Yet
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But Cleveland is a team in transition. They are under the direction of a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and a young quarterback in his first season as a starter. Even though the Browns gained some steam as a sleeper prior to this season, they aren't very good.
They lost to Bruce Gradkowski and the Bengals and narrowly knocked off the lowly Colts. On Sunday, Cleveland will face their first true test of the season against a team that is already battled tested.
Cleveland's Secondary Is Still Young and Inexperienced
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Believe or not, the Browns' pass defense ranks second in the league right now.
But that's what happens when you face a combination of Andy Dalton, Bruce Gradkowski and Kerry Collins.
This isn't to say Chad Henne is some elite quarterback—he's obviously not. But Henne is definitely better than those three, and his receiving corps is exponentially better.
Joe Haden is a budding star, but he should struggle to contain Brandon Marshall, who has finally become the focal point of Miami's offense. Other players like Davone Bess and Brian Hartline also have pretty favorable matchups, but the guy to watch this week is Clyde Gates. The Browns' secondary is very raw and very young, and they will struggle when a burner like Gates is on the field alongside Marshall and Bess.