The Miami Dolphins play the New England Patriots Sunday for the second time this year. The Dolphins are looking to avenge their 21-11 loss in the season opener to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Dolphins have had a lot of success against the Patriots at home in recent years, and since Bill Belichick has been the coach. This year is different because the Patriots don’t have Tom Brady as their starting quarterback for the first time in two decades outside of the year he was hurt in 2008. What doesn’t change about the Patriots is Belichick and how he makes adjustments from one game to the next. He has a different game plan each week.

This year it’s different on offense because the Patriots aren’t throwing the ball well with any consistency. They don’t have any real threats at receiver and tight end, but they haven’t the last few; however, they had Brady, who always found ways to succeed despite the lack of weapons. Cam Newton isn’t Brady, and as a passer, he is physically worn down and a shell of himself from the MVP years ago. Newton is still a threat to run, and the Dolphins’ weakness is stopping the run. The Dolphins were out of position several times in the season opener on the read options plays. The Patriots ran well over 200yds, and if that repeats itself, the Dolphins will lose.

The Dolphins’ defense since the opener has been the team’s strength, and with no preseason, it took a few games for them to get going. The Dolphins have to set the edge and contain the run. The question is, what will the Dolphins do different defensively? I’m sure Belichick might look to the game against the Denver Broncos and see how they had some success. The Patriots’ strength on offense is their offensive line, and the Dolphins have to win this battle if they are going to be successful.

I’m curious how the Dolphins’ offense will match up against the Patriots’ defense. This will be Belichick’s first game against Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Belichick always tries to take away his opponents’ strength on offense. The issue is, what is the Dolphins’ biggest strength on offense? They don’t run the ball well, but they do throw it decently. However, the Patriots’ biggest strength is their secondary, and the Dolphins are beat up at receiver and tight end. Last week, the Dolphins lost DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, and Mike Gesicki to injury, and all of them may be out this week. The Dolphins receivers struggled to create separation in the opener, and they struggled for the most part against the Kansas City Chiefs. Belichick also likes to try to exploit a quarterback’s weakness and take away their strength.  Tagovailoa likes to throw the ball between the numbers and get in a rhythm, so Belichick will try to take that away and make him beat him another way, like throwing it outside the numbers and down the field. I don’t think Tagovailoa will be able to throw it down the field, considering all of the injuries. How Tagovailoa responds will be key in the game. He must not hold on to the ball too long, not take unnecessary sacks, and move around the pocket when necessary.

The Patriots are clearly not the same team as the past two decades, but the game plan as well as anybody, especially on defense. The Dolphins are clearly a better team than in week 1. This will be a good test to see how much they have improved. The Patriots will make adjustments on defense, with this being their first time playing against Tagovailoa, as he isn’t as experienced as Ryan Fitzpatrick. It will be interesting to see how he responds against what Belichick throws at him and continues to progress.