Last week against Cleveland? It was a good start. It had value. It was an accomplishment because any week thats punctuated by a victory is a successful week in the NFL.
But if anyone thinks that season opener serves as a statement about the 2013 Dolphins or guarantees great days ahead, you should understand there is one more thing that Browns game represents.
The Browns this season arent a contender for anything other than best rebuilding franchise. They have struggled for years. They have a rookie coach. They dont have a consistent quarterback, and they got served their 13th season-opening loss in the past 14 years.
Beating the Browns is not a barometer for quality.
But Sunday against Indianapolis is another matter.
This game against a good team, a winning team, a playoff-caliber team, might forecast what these Dolphins really are and are headed toward. This game will speak in many ways to those perceiving a franchises course change but still lacking the tangible evidence to make a good case.
Indianapolis is coming off a playoff year so they have to be considered a playoff-caliber team, cornerback Dimitri Patterson said during the week of Dolphins preparation. So yeah, its a good measuring stick, no doubt about it.
The Dolphins believe themselves playoff contenders this year. Their goal is to win the AFC East crown outright, and after watching the New England Patriots and New York Jets play an uninspiring, unimpressive four quarters last week, the goal seems attainable.
But only if the Dolphins can beat the Colts.
Meaning of a win
If the Dolphins can do that, they suddenly seem a believable playoff contender because they will have beaten a playoff contender.
If the Dolphins can do that, they can argue they have a chance against the coming entourage of franchise quarterbacks they will face the rest of this season because Indys Andrew Luck is the first in that excellent line.
If the Dolphins can beat the Colts, it will suggest theyre turning the tide on what has been a consistently troubling inability to beat good teams the past five seasons.
Consider that the past five years, including the 2008 playoff season, the Dolphins have a very good 29-16 record (.640 winning percentage) against teams with records of .500 or worse.
That means the Dolphins have feasted on poor-to-mediocre teams the past five seasons. Theyve had little trouble, in other words, against teams like the same Cleveland Browns they just beat.
But against better-than-average teams, the Dolphins have been horrible. Theyve been outclassed against teams with records better than .500 the past five years to the tune of a 9-26 record (.250 winning percentage).
The past two years have been particularly bad, with Miami going 2-9 (.181 winning percentage) against such teams. Even in 2008, when the Dolphins gave their fan base hope of a turnaround with an 11-5 record and an AFC East championship, the team managed to win only two of six regular-season games against teams with records better than .500.
In other words, the Dolphins have been losing a lot of games against teams like Sundays opponent for at least five years.
Thats what makes this game against the Colts so interesting.
A victory would give hope the Dolphins have changed course. It would suggest Miami can indeed win upcoming games against Atlanta and Baltimore also 2012 playoff teams like the Colts because the gulf between Miami and playoff-caliber competition has shrunk.