The Dolphins, already two games back in a tough-as-nails AFC East and playing five of their next six games on the road, desperately need this game. A win gives gives them a boost of confidence heading into their Week Four tilt at San Diego. It takes some of the focus off their poor start, gets the critics off the organization's collective back.
The problem for Miami, in my view, is that a game that looks like a breather after playing New England and Houston will not be unless the Browns regress significantly and/or the Dolphins improve significantly. I don't award extra credit to clubs that lose by double digits at home like the Dolphins have in Weeks One and Two, even if New England and Houston appear the most formidable clubs in the AFC East and AFC South, respectively.
The Dolphins' offense, while a little more skilled than a season ago, lacks consistency. The defense has had a world of trouble stopping the pass and could be without talented young CB Vontae Davis (hamstring). Miami's special teams also don't appear to be a strength.
It's entirely possible the Dolphins are better than what they have shown early this season. If that's the case, and if the Browns play as sloppily as they did in the opener, when their execution in the final quarter really hurt them, Miami could notch its first win.
That said, I believe the Browns have some edges in this game. Their passing game gets a favorable matchup against this secondary. Their defense has allowed the sixth-fewest yards in the NFL. And Miami could struggle against RS Joshua Cribbs, who is off to a great start.
Prediction: Browns 24, Dolphins 17
Prediction record: 0-2