Well, Dolphin fans, it’s finally here! The 2021 season is set to kickoff, and your Miami Dolphins will be traveling to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to take on AFC East rival the New England Patriots.  This article will look at the Dolphins’ biggest X-factor, 3 things to watch, and of course, a final score prediction. New England is favored in this game, and they will be without CB Stephon Gilmore. The Dolphins will be without TE Adam Shaheen, who is on  COVID19/ reserve list. Miami will start the season for the 2nd consecutive year at Gillette Stadium before coming back home to take on the defending AFC East Champion Buffalo Bills. Now let’s get into 3 things to watch for Sunday’s season opener.

1. The running game:

This is a big aspect of this game on BOTH sides of the ball. Last year Miami ran for 250 yards(!!) and three touchdowns in a 22-12 victory of New England that eliminated them from the playoffs. This time around, let’s see if Miami can repeat that with Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, and Salvon Ahmed, who ran for 122 yards and touchdown in last year’s victory. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots are coming in with a rookie QB making his first-ever start; they will want to run the ball. Their ground attack is always strong, and it will be a big part of the game trying to control their ground game.

2. Offensive Line

The offensive line will be what wins or loses this game for Miami. Austin Jackson is questionable for this game, but everyone on the line will need to step up and play better than what we saw in the preseason. Dieter, Hunt, and Kindley will need to play well up the middle and create running lanes and a clean pocket. If Miami can stay stable upfront, it could be a big day for the offense; if not, it might be a long day for them.

3. Tua and the new offense

This is a new offense with co-offensive coordinators George Godsey and Eric Studesville. It will be interesting to see what it looks like. If I had to guess, I would say expect a lot of RPO and spread trying to force Kyle Van Noy and Donte Hightower to have to cover sideline to sideline. How Tua looks in this new offense will be huge as well as this should be tailored all for him.

Biggest X-Factor Offense: Myles Gaskin

I could go with a lot of different options here. I could name anyone on the offensive line, Tua Tagovailoa or Jaylen Waddle, but I’m going with Gaskin. Gaskin did not play in the 2nd game against New England, but his backup went for 100+ yards on the ground and a score. If Gaskin can replicate that on top of his receiving ability could help take the stress off Tua. On top of that, it could lead to New England having to stack up the box leading to more 1 on 1 matchups with Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, and Mike Gesicki.

Biggest X-Factor Defense: Raekwon Davis 

Raekwon Davis impressed as a rookie, and if he can take another step forward, we may have a real star on our hands. Davis will be tasked with clogging up the running lanes up the middle and making sure Mac Jones does not have room to step up in the pocket. If Davis can do his part in the run game and force New England to become more one-dimensional with a rookie QB, it only favorites Miami.

Prediction: Miami 24 New England 20

I went back and forth on this one because of the factor of playing in Gillette Stadium. I think Miami will be able to get to Mac Jones and make his day tough. They give up some big runs, but the run game gets held in check, and Tua Tagovailoa throws for 2 scores, including one to Jaylen Waddle.