THE CRYSTAL BALL

The Dolphins are one of the biggest favorites in the NFL during the opening weekend, but they still have to get the job done on the field. Here's how we think the game is going to unfold.

There are several factors that favor the Dolphins in this matchup, beyond the simple fact that Miami was 11-5 last year and Detroit was 2-14.

For instance, the Dolphins have won 10 straight season opener so they're obviously very good at starting the season off quickly.

Second, the Dolphins have won 15 home games in a row played in the month of August or September when the heat and humidity beat down and wear down out-of-town visitors.

Third, the Lions have a young quarterback starting for them, and the Dolphins traditionally have had tremendous success against young QBs.

Mike McMahon isn't nearly a good enough passer to do much damage through the air against the Dolphins, so the Lions' only realistic shot on offense is to run the ball and run it some more.

That might not be easy to do with a running back (James Stewart) that's got a gimpy knee against a defense that will be gearing up to stop the run.

On the other side, the Dolphins should be more explosive on offense but they'll be going against an improved Detroit defense.

The Dolphins probably won't light up the scoreboard against the Lions because that hasn't been their pattern, but a heavy dose of Ricky Williams should wear down the Detroit defense in the second half.

The Lions have a dangerous kick returner in Desmond Howard, and a Detroit upset probably would require a big play by him.

But there's no reason to think the Dolphins won't be able to handle the Lions in a game that should be close for a while until Miami pulls away.

The call: Miami 27, Detroit 10.


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