Back with another game preview before our first NFL Sunday and we’re taking a look at an interesting matchup between the Patriots and Dolphins!
We’ve finally made it. After what seems like a decade, we’ve made it from the Super Bowl, all the way to the 2020 season, partway through a pandemic the likes of which the world has never seen before. I’ll be honest, I never thought we’d see the start of the season myself, Goodell and the league preferred sitting on their hands for much of the early summer. However, against all odds, players have gone through a shortened training camp and positive tests among NFL personnel are under 1% of all tests carried out. Whether that will last through the entire 2020 season is another issue, but we’ll deal with that as and when we come to it.
Without further ado, welcome to the game preview for the Dolphins and Patriots game, set to kick off at 6 pm for us Brits. It should be a really interesting matchup with a lot of change for both sides so I’ll break down their offseason before saying how I think this game will pan out. Let’s get into it!
A team that was considered to be ‘Tanking for Tua’ in the 2019 season, ended up being led by grisly veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to five wins. What’s even weirder and hilarious, is that Fitzpatrick led the team in rushing with a little over 200 yards. That is how bad the Dolphins really were in 2019, if it weren’t for the emergence of DeVante Parker, they could have been picking first overall. If they were picking first overall, they likely would have taken Joe Burrow, the QB who came from nowhere, fresh off an undefeated championship year while Tua badly injured his hip. However, it was because of that injury that the Dolphins were still able to draft the tantalising young leftie. They added a lot via free agency but do the Dolphins have enough to make a move in the weak AFC East in 2020?
Yes, they drafted Tua, but Ryan Fitzpatrick will be steering the ship for now. He could very well implode in week 1 and pass the reigns to Tua by week 2 but you never quite know with Fitzmagic. At running back, they upgraded heavily bringing in Jordan Howard via free agency and trading for Matt Breida from the 49ers stable of talented running backs, they should definitely surpass Fitzpatrick’s rushing total from 2019. With DeVante Parker now a certified talent, Preston Williams looks like an easy breakout candidate receiving 60 targets in just eight games last season. Other than that it’s grisly with their No. 3 and 4 receivers opting out last month. Mike Gesicki is back at tight end, I think this is the season where we find out if he has an NFL future or whether he is JAG. Plus, that offensive line is about to be ground up like mincemeat once again, maybe it’s right to keep Tua on the bench for now.
Adding Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson to the mix via free agency was a good haul for the Dolphins, albeit a pricey one. This won’t be enough to keep a bad defence upright however so they should continue to add more and more to their D in next years offseason. Brian Flores should be able to coach up this unit to be it’s best self but their shining star might be the secondary. With Xavien Howard now joined by Byron Jones and their first-round pick, this might be a pretty good secondary. Other than Lawson, the Dolphins don’t really have any names across the defensive line but Van Noy was a good pick up for leadership and versatility. All in all, they will be better than 2019 but they still have a long way to go.
New England Patriots
You can’t mention the Patriots offseason without talking about the loss of Tom Brady. For the first time in 20 years, the team has had to come up with a solution at QB before the season and they have gone with Cam Newton for a very attractive salary. More on Cam later, but the Patriots also lost their three starting linebackers (two to free agency, one opting out) and a whole host of other players, either to free agency or opt-outs. This was a team led by its defence and they might need to be bailed out by their god-tier secondary once again in 2020. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see what Bill Belichick can do this year without Tom under centre.
The biggest change is obviously Cam and what he can do after his injuries. I, personally, believe in Cam and think we’ll be getting a fully healthy, back to form QB. But what will be most interesting is how McDaniel’s structures the offence around him. Will there be read options? Will there be more opportunity for Newton to run? At running back they have the slow and plodding Sony Michel who suddenly finds himself back in the starter’s seat with injuries and opt-outs. James White is still there so, hopefully, Cam sees him as the next McCaffrey and throws his way 50% of the time because this receiving corps is hot trash. Julian Edelman returns at age-34 to lead the group, while N’Keal Harry looks to shake off a disappointing and injury-plagued rookie year. Damiere Byrd has emerged as their WR3 after Sanu was released (a shockingly bad trade by Bill.) They still have nothing at tight end so they’d better hope that one of the two they drafted turns into a stud. At offensive line, they probably have a top-five trio on the interior while the tackle spots look a little suspect.
The Patriots defence was relevant in fantasy for the first 10 weeks of 2019, that’s how good they were. They were historically good, partly because of the teams and QBs they were facing, but partly because of the talent. This year is a different story, they are without any veteran players at linebacker, they lost depth on the defensive line and lost Chung in his safety/linebacker role. They did add a lot of young guys and they do still have incredible depth in their secondary but the versatility and talent they lost at linebacker cannot be overlooked. I still expect them to be good, purely because of the corners and safeties giving their defensive line enough time to create pressure, but they could be exposed harshly by the better offences in the league.
How it plays out
I see the Patriots defence suffocating the Miami receivers and putting pressure on Fitzpatrick forcing a low score for the Dolphins. I’m also imaging the revamped Miami secondary causing some problems and Newton tucking it and running for a TD himself along with Michel. It’s hard to say what the New England offence will look like with Cam but it’s fair to say that it will not be the same. This rivalry is often a good one, splitting the series more often than not. The Dolphins should play hard but their offensive line is still swiss cheese and outside of the secondary they lack much talent on defence.
That wraps up this preview for the Dolphins and Patriots, give me any suggestions for things you want to see in future previews, what you think of my opinions and what you think of this game in the comments!
Can’t leave you without a prediction that’ll be horrifically wrong: Patriots 20 – 10 Dolphins
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