Can Dolphins survive early schedule?

The NFL did not take it easy on the up-and-coming Miami Dolphins.

Miami, a team some believe could make a playoff push, has a brutal first five games at the top of its schedule. This slate will set the tone for the Dolphins’ entire 2013 season.

Here is a look at Miami’s early schedule:

Three of Miami’s first five opponents made the playoffs, and the Ravens are the reigning Super Bowl champions. The lesser opponents -- New Orleans and Cleveland -- are both road games, which are rarely easy. The Dolphins were 2-6 on the road last season.

The Dolphins beefed up their roster with major free-agent additions such as receiver Mike Wallace, tight end Dustin Keller, cornerback Brent Grimes and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. Miami also has 11 draft picks to use in next week’s draft. There is no doubt the Dolphins will be better on paper, but we won’t know how it will translate until Miami takes the field in the fall.

Due to the NFL's scheduling, we will know right away whether the Dolphins are pretenders or contenders. Any team that can come out of this brutal, five-game stretch with a winning record deserves to be taken seriously. But if the Dolphins are 1-4 or 0-5 by early October, they simply would be another team which couldn't live up to the offseason hype.