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The new-look Miami Dolphins make their debut on Sunday with a road trip to face the Houston Texans. The Dolphins hope the seventh time is the charm and will try for the first win against the Texans in franchise history.
Houston is coming off its first playoff appearance in franchise history, with expectations high once again. This week QB Matt Schaub called a Super Bowl berth "the next step" in the team's trajectory, adding, "Anything short of that will be a disappointment in our eyes."
Meanwhile, the Dolphins want to avoid digging too deep of a hole to start the season. With expectations decidedly low (at least externally), Miami would like to give new head coach Joe Philbin and rookie QB Ryan Tannehill a win in their debut.
When the Dolphins have the ball: Tannehill has a largely untested group of receivers surrounding him, with lightly-regarded veterans Davone Bess and Legadu Naanee on the first team. Tannehill averaged 5.3 yards per attempt in the preseason, not a good sign.
Reggie Bush is coming off a 1,086-yard season (his first time above 1,000 in his career), and he will be the biggest weapon on the Dolphins offense, now that WR Brandon Marshall is in Chicago. Houston has lost some key defensive contributors, with DE Mario Williams in Buffalo via free agency and LB DeMeco Ryans having been traded to Philadelphia.
Houston gave up the second-fewest yards in 2011, and even without Williams and Ryans, they figure to be stout. The Texans think rookie LB Whitney Mercilus and newly-signed LB Bradie James can hold their own, if not maybe match Williams and Ryan statistically.
When the Texans have the ball: With Matt Schaub back from the foot injury that sidelined him in Week 10 of 2011 and WR Andre Johnson fully healthy, Houston is once again expected to have one of the top offenses in the NFL. Those two are Pro Bowlers, as is RB Arian Foster. He also missed time to injury in 2011, but when all three are on the field, watch out.
In 2010, when the three combined for 42 starts, the Texans averaged 387 yards per game, third best in the NFL. Miami also gave up one of its top performers on defense this summer, trading CB Vontae Davis to Indianapolis.
But the Dolphins still have Pro Bowl pass rusher Cameron Wake, who will need to get in Schaub's face early and often if Miami is to slow down the Texans. Easier said than done.
Who has the edge? There's a reason the Dolphins are the biggest underdog of Week 1. Houston has too many weapons on offense, and the Dolphins don't have anywhere near the arsenal to keep up.
The Pick: Houston 31-Miami 13
Details: Houston Texans (0-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-0)
TV: CBS, 1:00 p.m., Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Line: Texans by 13
Previously: Dolphins lost 23-13 in Miami in 2011