Dolphins, Panthers among those primed for Week 1 road wins

  • By Jason Feller NFL.com
More Columns >

It takes a lot to win on the road in the NFL, but there are four teams that possess the ingredients necessary to pull off the difficult feat in Week 1. These four are in a unique position to get a difficult road win based on trends, past history and surrounding circumstances entering this weekend's action.

The Dolphins, Panthers, Packers and Cowboys all appear to be in position to claim road victories. The Dolphins travel to Buffalo to square off against the rival Bills, the Panthers are taking on the Giants, the Packers face the host Eagles and the Cowboys will do battle vs. the hated Redskins. Each matchup provides an opportunity for the visiting team to get a win.

Game: Miami at Buffalo (1 p.m. ET)

Venue: Ralph Wilson Stadium

Last time at site: Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 246 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 50 more yards and another score as the Bills routed the Dolphins, 31-14, in Week 12 last season.

Reason for road optimism: Buffalo has not been kind to the Dolphins in recent years. Not including a 2008 game in Toronto, Miami has lost five consecutive games in Western New York. Many of those games took place toward the middle or later portion of the season, however. It is always difficult for the Dolphins to win cold-weather contests given their warm home climate, but with this matchup coming in Week 1 and reasonably warm temperatures expected, that should not be an issue. From a personnel standpoint, the Dolphins also have an advantage as their power rushing attack should be effective against an unaccomplished Bills front.

The Bills are a team in transition under new coach Chan Gailey. They have a young roster filled with budding stars like RB C.J. Spiller, CB Leodis McKelvin and S Jairus Byrd and will get a boost from the sellout home crowd. That said, their lack of experience could come back to haunt them against a veteran Dolphins club. Buffalo has also struggled in openers over the past few years, going 2-4 over the past six years. For the Bills to avoid starting the season with a defeat, they must avoid getting rattled late like they did last year against New England in Week 1 when they lost a heartbreaker.

Game: Carolina at New York Giants (1 p.m. ET)

Venue: New Meadowlands Stadium

Last time at site: Jonathan Stewart rushed for 206 yards and a touchdown as the Panthers blew out the slumping Giants, 41-9, in Week 16 last season.

Reason for road optimism: Carolina will come into this game brimming with confidence based on previous results at New York. After crushing the Giants in their final game at Giants Stadium last year, the Panthers would love nothing more than to clobber them again in their first regular-season contest at the New Meadowlands. In fact, the Panthers have been a thorn in the Giants' side ever since John Fox came on board in 2002. Carolina has traveled to New York four times in that span, and won three of the matchups, with the only loss coming in overtime two years ago.

While New York will have a boisterous crowd reveling in a new stadium on its side, that is somewhat offset by the fact the Giants have not had enough time yet to really grow accustomed to their new digs. They did play three preseason games there, and have practiced on the field, but it will take an adjustment period to get fully used to the building's intricacies. New York brought in defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to help improve a unit that fell apart last season, but stopping Carolina's elite rushing attack won't be easy. Their ability to do so could be the key to victory.

Game: Green Bay at Philadelphia (4:15 p.m. ET)

Venue: Lincoln Financial Field

Last time at site: Donovan McNabb accounted for four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) to help the Eagles pummel the overmatched Packers, 31-9, in Week 4 of the 2006 season.

Reason for road optimism: The Packers enter the season as the clearcut NFC favorite, according to NFL.com's analysts. They were spectacular in the preseason and are coming off a year in which they finished 11-5 and lost a devastating wild-card game to the Cardinals in overtime. While Green Bay is known for being a dominant home team, it has also stepped up its game on the road. The Packers finished 5-3 away from Lambeau Field last year, and have posted a winning road record in three of the past four years. They have also fared well in openers recently, riding a three-game Week 1 winning streak.

Philadelphia made major news in the offseason by trading McNabb to the rival Redskins and handing the reins to inexperienced signal-caller Kevin Kolb. That move might bring dividends later in the season, but there will likely be a transition period early on in the year. Eagles fans have huge expectations and are very vocal in their displeasure if the home team does not play well, so Kolb will face immediate pressure to produce. With their explosive offense, the Packers figure to score often, and Kolb's ability to respond to the challenge could determine the outcome.

Game: Dallas at Washington (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

Venue: FedEx Field

Last time at site: Washington was unable to get anything going offensively as Dallas rolled to a 17-0 victory in Week 16 of last season.

Reason for road optimism: Simply put: The Cowboys have owned the Redskins in prime-time games over the past few seasons. This is the third consecutive time these teams will meet at FedEx Field on Sunday night, and the Cowboys have won the previous two, while allowing Washington to score only 10 points. Going back further, the Cowboys have played the Redskins five times on Sunday night and have yet to lose. Not only will Dallas be able to draw on that past history of domination, but the Cowboys can also gain confidence from the fact they have won three consecutive openers.

Washington got a new head coach ( Mike Shanahan), new starting quarterback (McNabb) and new left tackle in the offseason ( Trent Williams) in the hopes of reviving and offense that was one of the league's worst last season. The Redskins were inconsistent in the preseason, and McNabb has struggled to pick up Shanahan's offense after spending his first 11 seasons in Andy Reid's system. Williams, the fourth overall pick in the draft, looks like a good prospect, but he had a tough time against Baltimore's Terrell Suggs in the preseason, and Dallas' DeMarcus Ware possesses similar ability.

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15