Deceiving Appearances

It never fails. From the moment the NFL schedule comes out in April to the start of the regular season and even into the regular season, fans and media members will start evaluating the degree of difficult and even start predicting wins and losses weeks in advance. Except that it rarely plays out the way it's supposed to because things in the NFL always change.

The 2013 Miami Dolphins are a perfect example.

What was the big topic of conversation after the schedule first came out? Oh my gosh, how are the Dolphins are going to get through that opening five-game sequence?

The gauntlet, they called it.

The Dolphins would have to face, after a perceived easy opener at Cleveland, the up-and-coming Colts, the Super Bowl contender Falcons, the back-in-business Saints and the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens.

Somehow, that schedule doesn't look quite as tough now, with Atlanta and Baltimore both sporting losing records heading into the final weekend of October.

Here's the thing, though: This works both ways.

After the Dolphins get through the upcoming two-game set against New England and Cincinnati, which looked tough in April, in June, in August and still does now, the schedule was supposed to get a lot easier with games against Tampa Bay, San Diego, Carolina and the Jets coming up.

Well, the Bucs indeed has to rank as an easy assignment by NFL standards, but the other three suddenly don't look so easy anymore.

San Diego is 4-3 through seven games, and the losses include last-second heartbreakers against Houston and Tennessee.

Carolina is 4-3 and on a three-game winning streak where every victory was by double digits. Cam Newton is looking good and Carolina is playing very good defense.

The Jets, meanwhile, have shocked most observers by getting off to a 4-3 starts with victories against both Atlanta and New England.

The moral of the story? Even though, it's awfully tempting to do, don't get caught up in playing the schedule game.

Things just change too much in the NFL every year.

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