As the days become shorter, the nights get colder, and my home state of California burns to the ground (again), one thing is certain, New England Patriots football is back.
Starting off the season, on September 13th at 1PM (EST), the Patriots will be playing their AFC East rival, the Miami Dolphins. This game will be at Gillette Stadium in front of ZERO fans, per the state of Massachusetts not allowing fans to attend games through the month of September.
The Dolphins, in the 2019 season, were 25th in total team offense, 12th in passing, 32nd in rushing, and 32nd in scoring. They finished 32nd in total team defense, 26th against the pass, 27th against the run, and were the 32nd ranked scoring defense.
The Patriots, on the other hand, finished 7th in total team offense, 8th in passing, 18th in rushing, and 1st in scoring. The Patriots finished 1st in total team defense, 2nd in passing, 6th against the run, and were the number 1 scoring defense in the NFL.
So what does all of this mean? Well, nothing.
The Patriots have had significant personnel changes on both sides of the ball and aside from a handful of veterans, this is a very different-looking team than last season.
The Dolphins have also made quite a few personnel changes this off-season. Of course, the biggest one would be drafting Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall. I think the decision to start Fitzmagic (Ryan Fitzpatrick) over Tua Tagovailoa at this moment makes a lot of sense. I’m sure it will be ‘Tua Time’ at some point this season in Miami, but there is no need to make him your Week 1 starter.
Some other important signings for the Dolphins are CB Byron Jones, LB Kyle Van Noy, RB Jordan Howard, and acquiring Matt Breida via trade from the 49ers. On paper the Dolphins defense and running game should be much improved.
Keys to the game for the Patriots:
I expect a lot of designed runs for Cam Newton early and often. Let’s be real, there aren’t many great options in the passing game outside of Edleman and White/Burkhead out of the backfield. I also anticipate a healthy amount of screen passes to N’Keal Harry, much like Cam, N’Keal Harry is at his best when he can use his athleticism to make plays. With the addition of FB Dan Vitale, we may see some power runs with Vitale leading the way for Sony Michel to mix things up. I personally believe the most important match up should be Stephon Gilmore vs DeVante Parker. Parker torched NE in their last meeting for 8 receptions and 137 yards. If the Patriots are able to limit Parker’s production on Sunday, I like their chances at winning this game.
Talk to you all soon.