I'm going to start off a new segment taking a look at Miami's opponents one week at a time. There will be plenty more game breakdowns prior to the first week, but there is enough training camp coverage here for me to look forward a little bit.
Miami's first opponent will be a team the Dolphins never beat. How good as Miami been for Houston? Well, the Texans have beat Miami six times, more than any team outside of their division. In fact, Houston has only beat division rival Jacksonville more often (11) than they've beat the Dolphins. Miami has been credited for nearly 10% of Houston's wins in their existence (65).
Why this game favors Miami: There aren't many reasons this game favors the Dolphins, but the one reason it does is rather huge. Miami will be going into Houston with new offensive and defensive schemes. In a typical year with no coaching change, Houston would have simply watched last year's games, specifically their own vs Miami, to prepare for the Dolphins. Fortunately for Miami, those tapes are about as outdated as the Wildcat offense (my apologies to the Jets -- well, not really) and the Texans will have little film to go on. They can scout Miami through their preseason, but much of preseason play only consists of the basic playbook for teams and don't set a real strong barometer for how they will come out and play when the games mean something.
Over the past two years, the Dolphins are 5-11 (4-4 in 2011) at home and 8-8 (2-6 in 2011) on the road. That has to mean they have a slightly bit of a better chance of winning since they're on the road, right? Right? Okay, maybe I'm stretching...
Why this game doesn't favor Miami: This is Miami's first real game with a new offense and a new defense. Yes, I just said that. Coming into the game with sparkling new offense and defense is both an advantage and disadvantage for Miami. While they can have the element of surprise against Houston, there is also a strong chance Miami will go through some growing pains as they adjust to new schemes. Houston isn't exactly the ideal team to play when you want to try and test your new offense and defense. Houston is solid on both sides of the ball and they can turn any mental errors into points quickly.
More importantly than Miami being their own worst enemy in the opening week, Houston is just simply a much better team than Miami. Houston has enough talent to overcome surprises Miami can throw at them. A stout defense will make it hard for Miami to consistently create long drives and the few big plays Miami can generate likely won't be enough to sustain a consistent offense. On the other side of the ball, the Texans have such talent on offense they can put up points on a single mental error by one of Miami's young defensive players. Houston can overcome early season errors, but Miami can't. The Dolphins will need to play much better fundamental football to beat Houston on the road.
Way too early prediction: I predict David Garrard (yes, I am also predicting him to be the starting QB) to lead an offense with some big plays and to score some points for Miami, but I expect Houston to take advantage of Miami's young defense, keeping Miami at bay for the length of the game. With Houston's stout defense, those big plays are more likely to lead to more field goals than touchdowns. That is a trend Miami fans are used to seeing. Miami 16, Houston 27.