In only a few more days, the New England Patriots will officially kick off the 2020 season. Before each game this season, we will put out a game preview along with our win/loss prediction. Without further ado, here’s our preview for the Patriots’ Week 1 matchup.
Details out of the Game:
- Miami Dolphins (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0)
- September 13, at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
- Dolphins lead series 56-53
Matchups to Watch:
Stephon Gilmore vs. DeVante Parker
If there’s one game within the game to watch on Sunday, it’s Stephon Gilmore battling DeVante Parker (assuming Parker is healthy enough to play on Sunday). The two matched up twice last season and the results couldn’t have been more split. In the Week 2 matchup, Gilmore and the Patriots’ secondary held Parker to 0 catches. However, in the Week 17 matchup, Parker had 8 catches for 137 yards against Gilmore and the Patriots’ secondary.
Who wins round one of the 2020 season? Only time will tell, but if Gilmore can take out Parker, there isn’t a ton of options left for Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw too. Preston Williams is a nice player, but it’s clear the Patriots’ secondary has a significant advantage against the Dolphins’ receiver group.
Patriots Wideouts vs. Dolphins Secondary
Going into the season, there are a ton of questions surrounding the Patriots’ wide receiving core. The group will face an early test going against an improved Dolphins’ secondary this Sunday.
Last season, the Dolphins’ secondary was among the worst in the NFL. They allowed 262.4 yards per game, which ranked 26th in the NFL. Fortunately for Miami, they were able to improve their secondary in the offseason. The Dolphins added corner help by signing Byron Jones and drafting Noah Igbinoghene in the first round. In addition, Xavien Howard, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, should be back at some point this season, maybe even Week 1. At safety, the Dolphins will roll out Bobby McCain, former Patriots Eric Rowe, and 2020 third-round pick Brandon Jones. It’s not a Patriots-level secondary, but it will be much better than what they had last year.
The matchup with the Patriots is interesting. Julian Edelman will be Julian Edelman, but can the rest of the wide receiver corps win matchups against this secondary? That’s something to monitor throughout this game and throughout the entirety of this season.
Patriots O-Line vs. Dolphins D-Line
The Patriots’ offensive line, especially the interior, has a real shot to play a huge role in the Week 1 matchup with the Dolphins. The Dolphins added some help on the edge in the offseason by signing former Patriot Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson, and Emmanuel Ogbah. They also have some young talent on the interior with Raekwon Davis, Christian Wilkins, and Davon Godchaux, but ultimately we think the Patriots’ offensive line should be able to win this matchup. Last season, the Dolphins gave up a whopping 135.4 rush yards per game, and while it’s true the Dolphins added more talent, the interior is still vulnerable to being attacked.
As for pass-rushing, the Dolphins ranked among the lowest in the NFL last season. Miami only registered 23 sacks total sacks. Again, Miami definitely added talent this offseason, but will it be enough to consistently make plays against a talented Patriots offensive line? Keep in mind, the interior offensive line is probably the most talented position group on the Patriots’ offense. David Andrews has returned after missing last season with blood clots, and Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney are among the best guard duos in the NFL. The one concerning spot along the offensive line is the right tackle position. Jermaine Eluemunor will be starting in the spot after earning the job following Marcus Cannon’s opt out of the 2020 season.
Keys to Victory:
Getting the Run Game Going
Cam Newton at quarterback means the Patriots’ offense this season will look much different than what we’ve seen in recent memory. With the lack of proven offensive weapons, we tend to think a more run-heavy offense is in order. In an ideal world, the Patriots will control the trenches and get the run game going early. As we previously discussed, the Patriots seem to have an advantage in the trenches, but that’s not all. The Patriots will be able to attack the Dolphins linebackers in both the run and passing game. We expect Josh McDaniels to do just that.
If the Patriots are able to establish the run game, you then set yourself up for a ton of play-action, which will help your receiver and tight ends get open. Control the clock, get an early lead, and keep rushing the football until someone stops you. The Patriots will likely use that strategy a lot this season, similar to some of the 2018-19 playoff games.
Taking an Advantage of a Young Dolphins Offensive Line
The Dolphins had one of, if not the worst, offensive lines in football last season. The offensive line will be better this season after drafting Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley. They also signed Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras, but it still feels like a group that could be a weak spot.
If the Dolphins do opt to start rookies Jackson and Kindley on the offensive line in Week 1, the Patriots need to take advantage. Easier said than done though, as the Patriots will also be relying on a lot of youth on the defensive front. With that being said, Chase Winovich and Adam Butler, in particular, should have some good opportunities to make some big plays in the pass rush. Against the run, the Patriots will rely on John Simon and Lawrence Guy to play prominent roles.
Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels
Coaching in the NFL has always been important but perhaps no greater than this season. No preseason games have made building a roster and getting a team ready for Week 1 more challenging than ever, but there’s nobody we trust with that responsibility more than Bill Belichick. Another important thing to note is the role of Josh McDaniels. McDaniels, a great offensive mind, has spent the last few months of the offseason building an offense built around Cam Newton. That should excite Patriots fans. A quarterback with a skill set like Newton allows McDaniels to create some unique wrinkles on offense. The Dolphins also have a good coaching staff in head coach Brian Flores and offensive Chan Gailey, but it’s hard to bet against Belichick.
24-13 Patriots over the Dolphins
Miami is a young team on the rise, but without much of an offseason to develop young talent, we expect the Patriots to take advantage of the Dolphins growing pains. Cam Newton and the New England Patriots will start the 2020 season off with a victory.
Let us know your prediction for the Patriots vs. Dolphins in the comments below!