NFL · Sun (9/12) @ 4:25pm ET
|Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts|
Our Pick: NE Patriots at +450. Get a $600 risk-free bet at BetMGM!
The Miami Dolphins came close to making the playoffs last season, while the New England Patriots had an expected fall from grace. But heading into the 2021 NFL season, both are looking forward to good things happening. However, when they face off in Week One, good things will not happen for one of them.
Will it be the Patriots after an uncharacteristic busy offseason in free agency? Or will it be the Dolphins in Year Two with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback? Oddsmakers are leaning towards the Patriots, as is the betting public—but oddsmakers and the betting public do not always get it right.
The Dolphins had a safety net when Tua Tagovailoa was on the field last season in veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. But with Fitzpatrick in Washington, Miami does not have a safety net in case Tagovailoa struggles. So, they did the next best thing and surrounded him with a better team.
Last season, the Dolphins had one of the worst offensive lines in the league and little to no talent at running back or wide receiver. This season, the offensive line is still lackluster, but there is hope for it if the young players on the line can take a step forward.
As for the skill positions, Will Fuller gives Tagovailoa a solid deep threat (when he is healthy). The sixth pick in the last draft, Jaylen Waddle, gives him a definite playmaker, and Malcolm Brown gives the Dolphins some depth at running back. Factor in DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, and the Dolphins look good at the skill positions.
If Tagovailoa and the offense struggle to get on the same page, the defense should be good enough to bail them out in a few games. Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are a dangerous tandem in the secondary. Jerome Baker, Christian Wilkins, and Raekwon Davis are already standouts and will likely be even better this season.
Defensively, the Dolphins look like they will have one of the better units in the NFL. But on the offensive side, it is all about potential. Can the youth on the offensive line improve? Will Tagovailoa sink or swim without Ryan Fitzpatrick to bail him out?
Only time will tell.
New England Patriots
As long as Bill Belichick is roaming the sideline, there will be hope for the New England Patriots. Despite a lack of talent last season, the team was still good enough to finish 7-9. But after an unusually active offseason, talent may no longer be an issue.
While the Patriots did add a few wide receivers, they did not add anyone overly impressive (Nelson Aghlolor, Kendrick Bourne, Marvin Hall). But they did add two of the better tight ends available in free agency (Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
However, while the roster looks better, it remains to be seen who will play quarterback. Bill Belichick has backed Cam Newton. But it would be foolish to overlook their first-round pick, Mac Jones. According to the rumor mill, both have had their moments in training camp (good and bad).
Newton may be the known commodity, but Jones may have more upside.
On the defensive side of the ball, the interior of the front seven does not look too impressive; the Patriots may be counting on a few draft picks to step up. But overall, the Patriots managed to improve last year’s top-notch defensive squad.
This game is a tough one to call since both teams have question marks at quarterback. Who will it be for the Patriots, Newton or Jones? Can Tagovailoa improve in his second year, or will he fall victim to the dreaded sophomore slump?
As crucial as the quarterbacks are to both teams, the difference-maker in this game will be the offensive lines. New England has one of the best o-lines in the league and a talented, young running back in Damien Harris. Miami’s, on the other hand, does not look good on paper and could be a liability this season.
So– how will this one play out? Tagovailoa will look okay. But the Patriots will control the line of scrimmage with their offensive line and the clock with the run game. It will be a low-scoring game (much like last season’s opener) that will see the Patriots come out on top.
Take New England to win via the moneyline in week one.