A closer look at Miami's early schedule

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
2:30
PM ET
The Miami Dolphins have one of the toughest early-season schedules of any NFL team. So far Miami is 2-0, which included road wins over the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts.

I've said before the season that a 3-2 or 2-3 start for Miami is considered a success. But should those expectations rise? The Dolphins are proving they have dynamic playmakers and toughness in the first two weeks of the season. Suddenly, Miami’s early schedule does not look as daunting as it once did.

Here is an updated look at Miami's schedule:
  • At Cleveland (0-2): This 23-10 win for Miami was very important considering what was ahead on the schedule. The Dolphins took control of the Browns in the second half, and took momentum into Week 2. Any road win is big, even against the lowly Browns.
  • At Indianapolis (1-1): This was a barometer for Miami. The Dolphins match up with the Colts very well, but lost a close game last year. Miami learned from its mistakes, took care of business and kept Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in check in the fourth quarter. It’s way too early to talk playoffs. But this game might eventually benefit Miami in terms of tiebreakers if both teams are in contention late in the year.
  • Vs. Atlanta Falcons (1-1): After a 2-0 start, the Dolphins are playing with house money. Miami will be in good shape regardless of the outcome of this game. A 3-0 start would be terrific for the Dolphins and surpass everyone’s expectations. But a 2-1 start after three games is solid as well. Many feel the Falcons are a Super Bowl contender, but they are limping into this game with various injuries. The Dolphins can make another huge statement if they can beat Atlanta in their home opener. With the way Miami is playing, the Dolphins certainly have a chance.
  • At New Orleans Saints (2-0): This is probably the game that worries me the most from Miami’s perspective. New Orleans is one of the toughest and loudest road venues in the NFL. In addition, this will be on “Monday Night Football” in front of a national audience and a hostile crowd. The Dolphins don’t have a lot of favorable matchups in this game. It also will be Miami’s third road trip in four weeks, which could catch up to the team at the end of the month.
  • Vs. Baltimore Ravens (1-1): The Ravens do not look like the dominant Super Bowl champions we watched during the playoffs last year. Depending on the week, this year’s Ravens are struggling on offense (Week 2 against Cleveland) and defense (Week 1 against Denver). Baltimore has a lot of new pieces this season, and it’s going to take time for the Ravens to put it altogether. Keep an eye on the Ravens the next two weeks to see how they progress.

The Dolphins will be in good shape if they win at least one of these three games before the bye week. But Miami should have higher aspirations. Simply defending home field could provide the Dolphins a chance to be 4-1 heading into the bye week.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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