Dolphins vs Patriots: Who Has the Advantage Sunday?
When the Dolphins take the field Sunday, things will look more different than they ever have. This could be the first time ever that these players will play without a crowd in their entire lives. You have to think at even the peewee level there were fans and parents in attendance. If that isn’t weird enough, the Patriots will suit up a quarterback with 0 Super Bowl wins and a #1 on his jersey for the first time in 20 years. This doesn’t mean the Dolphins have it any easier, however. Any Bill Belichick led team is a team that will be well prepared, disciplined, and poised to win a game. Let’s take a look at who might have the advantage come Sunday and how this game might shake out.
NE: Cam Newton vs. MIA: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Cam Newton was recently named the starting quarterback of the team and one of the team captains. Newton only played 2 games last season for the Panthers before being released this off-season. Cam seems to be fitting in nicely in New England and receivers have claimed that they haven’t seen Newton go home. He is the first person in the building and the last one out. Newton possesses natural, physical traits that make him a match-up nightmare for any team. The 6 foot 5”, 245-pound quarterback is undefeated against the Dolphins in the 2 games he has played. The Dolphins typically struggle against mobile quarterbacks and this could continue Sunday. The new-look Dolphins defense must make containing Newton a top priority. If Cam is running around Gillette stadium Sunday, it’s going to be a long day for the Dolphins and a less than ideal start to the season.
NE: Sony Michel/James White vs. MIA: Jordan Howard/Matt Breida
This was a tough one to choose but familiarity ultimately tilted the tides. In 2019, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins in rushing yards and the team hopes that is not the case this year. A combination of Howard and Breida is arguably a more talented backfield but both are taking their first snaps for the team this weekend. Michel and White are running behind an offensive line that they are familiar with and have built chemistry with. Last year the two combined for about 80 yards per game rushing. Both teams like to utilize multiple backs throughout the game and divvy up the carries. 100 rushing yards is usually a good indicator that the rushing attack was successful and we will see who wins in this category come Sunday.
NE: Edelman/Harry/Byrd vs. MIA: Parker/Williams/Grant
Not only does Miami have a more talented group, but the most versatile. Between the 6’3” Parker, 6’5” Williams, and speedy Jakeem Grant, the Dolphins create mismatches all over the field. DeVante Parker had a Pro-Bowl caliber 2019 tallying career highs in games played, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. In week 17 last year, Parker got the best of the defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore. He caught 8 passes for 137 yards in a shocking win to end his spectacular 2019 campaign. Undrafted rookie Preston Williams shined early before tearing his ACL halfway through the season. Williams is a big, strong, physical wideout who has all the makings of a star in the NFL. Slot WR Jakeem Grant has always had the speed to create mismatches for opposing defenses but his hands are his biggest downfall. Both Williams and Grant are healthy and ready to go Sunday. Miami will have many chances to move the ball on New England’s secondary in week 1.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) September 13, 2020
NE: Ryan Izzo/Devin Asiasi vs. MIA: Mike Gesicki/Durham Smythe
Any Rob Gronkowski-less Patriots team is an advantage for the Dolphins, right? Mike Gesicki had a breakout 2019 season and would love to build on that in 2020. Gesicki, the recipient of the game-winning touchdown in week 17, tallied 51 catches for 570 yards and 5 touchdowns a season ago. Ryan Fitzpatrick played a big part in Gesicki’s success and the TE quickly became one of his favorite targets. Gesicki is a naturally gifted athlete who can high point the ball very well. With his 41.5-inch vertical, jump balls in the end zone should become a thing of regularity. Dolphins fans were shocked to see Smythe listed as the starting tight end going into week 1 but make no mistake, Gesicki will have his opportunities. Durham Smythe was drafted as a pass-blocking tight end and you could see him on the line quite often this season to help out rookie left tackle Austin Jackson secure the left side of the line. We could see a lot of two tight end sets as well this year from the Dolphins. If Smythe and Gesicki can duplicate what they did in 2019, the Dolphins will be just fine at tight end this season.
The Patriots will have a clear advantage come Sunday on the offensive line. This off-season, New England was able to hold on to star left guard Joe Thuney by franchise tagging him. Their 2018 1stround pick, Isaiah Wynn, is fully healthy and ready to play a full season and center David Andrews is back as well. Although right tackle Marcus Cannon won’t be playing after choosing to opt-out, this line for the Patriots has more chemistry than Miami does. The Dolphins invested heavily into their offensive line this off-season and seem to have put some good pieces together. Captain right tackle Jesse Davis will be the only returning starter for the team. The Dolphins signed center Ted Karras to a 1-year, $4 million dollar contract and left guard Ereck Flowers to a 3-year, $30 million dollar contract. Flowers, the 2015 1stround pick of the Giants, turned around his career by moving from tackle to guard. Flowers had a very successful 2019 by only committing 5 penalties and allowing only 2 sacks while playing 100% of Washington’s snaps. Lastly, the Dolphins will round out their line by plugging in newly drafted left tackle Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley. Kindley has had an impressive training camp and won the starting right guard position. Ultimately, I believe the Patriots line will create more holes for New England’s backfield and allow time for Newton to throw.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) September 12, 2020
NE: Stephon Gilmore/Jason McCourty vs. MIA: Xavien Howard/Byron Jones
Get ready for this heavyweight matchup. Defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore will most likely shadow DeVante Parker in week 1 but that might not be such an advantage for New England this week. Parker burned Gilmore for 8 catches and 137 yards in their last matchup, which might give Gilmore some added motivation. Jason McCourty is a solid player but the combination of Howard and Jones for Miami is a better duo. The Dolphins have two Pro-Bowlers roaming the secondary and two of the best man-to-man cover corners in the game. The advantage goes to Miami due to the fact that the Dolphins will have the opportunity to shut down the New England pass game and make the Patriots one-dimensional. The addition of Byron Jones could uplift this unit from the middle of the pack defense to one of the better ones in the league. Miami will rely heavily on its defense to win games this year and it starts in their secondary.
NE: Devin McCourty/Terrence Brooks vs. MIA: Bobby McCain/Eric Rowe
Not too often do you see two cornerbacks turned safety starting on the same team? McCain and Rowe have both transitioned well to their new roles in Miami. Both players possess the ability to cover opposing receivers and tight ends at a high level. The last time these two teams met, Rowe returned an interception for a touchdown on Tom Brady. If Rowe or McCain can make a high-impact play like that again, it could mean the difference in a win or a loss. In any other season, the Patriots would have the advantage at safety but strong safety Patrick Chung decided to opt-out due to the ongoing pandemic. Devin McCourty is a game-changer and could cause havoc himself in Sunday’s matchup. Ultimately it comes down to which group can create the most disruptive plays and possibly change the outcome.
NE: Calhoun/Bentley/Copeland vs. MIA: Roberts/Baker/Van Noy
This could be one of the most lopsided matchups in Sunday’s game. The Dolphins will be starting two ex-Patriots in Roberts and Van Noy. Van Noy brings over a winning mentality and a playmaking ability the Dolphins have lacked for years. Pair that with Jerome Baker who is all over the field with his high motor and intensity and the Dolphins have built a solid linebacking core. The key for the Dolphins linebackers on Sunday will be to stop New England’s running game. The Patriots love to run the football and also utilize screen passes and passes to the tight ends. All of which are the responsibility of the Miami linebackers. The Dolphins would like to shut down the running game and force Newton to throw on their outstanding secondary. As for the Patriots, they will be without all 3 of their starting linebackers from a year ago. Once a strength of the team is now one of their weakest units.
New England and Miami are pretty even when it comes to their defensive line. The Dolphins upgraded their line this off-season by signing defensive end’s Shaq Lawson from Buffalo and Emmanuel Ogbah from Kansas City. They will bring a much-needed pass rush to a Dolphins team that ranked dead last in sacks per game last year with a lousy 1.4 per. Miami’s defensive line could benefit from a shutdown secondary and coverage sacks could become a regularity. Keeping Cam Newton contained and making him uncomfortable is something Miami needs to do. As for New England’s defensive line, they could be presented with opportunities to do damage against Miami’s offensive line. New England loves to exploit your weak spots and there are two rookies set to start for Miami Sunday.
The Patriots seem to always be at an advantage when it comes to special teams. The coaching staff game plans better than any team in the league and finds unique ways to win games in all three phases. The Patriots arguably have the best special teams player in the league in Matthew Slater and rely on him heavily to lead their unit. A game is not usually won on special teams, but provide the opportunity to. Jakeem Grant is an explosive return man and could change the game with one play.
Bill Belichick. The greatest coach of all time will still be leading a New England organization that is looking for a new identity. Until he retires, he has the advantage over any coach in the NFL.
The weather for Sunday’s AFC East clash will be 73 degrees and partly cloudy. The warm weather Dolphins won’t have to battle the elements this week and removing opposing fans will be in Miami’s favor as well. A Tom Brady-less led team will give any road team confidence and especially a rival. The Patriots will hope that a season opener will be enough to jumpstart the team without their leader for the past 20 years.
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