By: Cody Molla (@Cmolla1)
It’s here! After getting a taste of NFL football back from the Thursday night game football fans can’t wait for a full NFL Sunday.
One of those games in the late window Sunday is the Dolphins vs Patriots. The Miami Dolphins look to build off a strong 2020 season while the Patriots are a team who struggled last year but has a reloaded roster in an AFC East clash.
This game is full of interesting storylines and a few key matchup’s that will decide this game. For starters, we can focus on the quarterback matchup. The Miami Dolphins are starting Tua Tagovailoa, former Alabama quarterback, in his second season. The Patriots are starting rookie Mac Jones also a former Alabama quarterback. The Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in his third year previously spent 10 seasons as a Patriots assistant and has brought many “Patriot” things to the Dolphins. There are multiple players on each roster who have spent time on the opponent’s team. Even a matchup of twins. Along with all this familiarity comes multiple meetings a year for these two teams who are well acquainted with one another.
The Patriots cut Cam Newton a few weeks ago and named Mac Jones the starter for the regular season. The Patriots drafted Mac Jones in the first round with the 15th overall pick. Jones will be in for a tough debut as he faces a Dolphins defense that forced the most turnovers in the NFL last season. Led by corner Xavien Howard who picked off 10 passes last season. Mac Jones cast of weapons will include Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jonnu Smith, and Hunter Henry. The backfield will rotate with players like Damien Harris, JJ Taylor, James White, and Rhamondre Stevenson might even see touches.
A large part of the expert football world is picking the Patriots to win this game because of the quarterbacks for each team. I’m not sure why but many claim Mac Jones is the more stable and experienced quarterback even though Mac Jones has never played a meaningful down of NFL football. Brian Flores will throw the kitchen sink at the rookie. The Dolphins defense will give Mac Jones fits and will be much different than the vanilla defensive schemes Jones saw in the pre-season, often vs backups. People seem to forget the Dolphins won six of nine starts with Tua. Tua outplayed Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert, and lost to the Chiefs by six points in his first season. A season in which he had limited training camp due to a serious hip injury in college. Now, Tua has nine NFL starts under his belt, a full off season with receivers his built chemistry and continuity with, and a playbook he knows. Yes, the Patriots defense is rebuilt from last year but you tell me who is the more “proven” quarterback?
Both of these coaches are defensive-minded and well-versed in scheming. Bill Belichick s one of the best ever. His track record is long and proven and he is one of if not the best game planners in the NFL. Brian Flores is quickly joining this group of good game planning coaches. Flores has created an elite defense and will be ready to cause havoc for the rookie. Last year Flores’s scheme caused problems for rookie Justin Herbert. Herbert was constantly put under pressure and forced into one interception.
In the second meeting last year Tua was successful versus the Belichick scheme. Tua completed 20/26 passes for 145 yards and an interception. He did rush for two touchdowns, as the Dolphins rushed for 250 yards and three touchdowns total. Tua also played this game down his four top receiving weapons. Durham Smythe and Lynn Bowden were the top playmakers for the Fins in this game. Tua will come into this game with a full complement of weapons and look to get them active!
These weapons will be DeVante Parker, rookie Jaylen Waddle, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, and Mike Gesicki. The running backs included dual-threat Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, and Salvon Ahmed. The Patriots are without corner Stephon Gilmore who is on PUP to start the year. Meaning JC Jackson will likely be locked up with Parker. Parker has had much success vs Gilmore in recent matchups so the one with Jackson will be a key this game. The other key matchup for this Dolphins offense comes from the guys upfront. A unit that struggled last season at times. They are still young and will be tested right away this year. The Patriots added some edge rushers with serious talent. In particular Matthew Judon. Judon will lineup on Tuas blindside. Which may be versus recent acquisition Greg Little. Austin Jackson is currently on the Covid list and may be unable to play for Miami. This would be a blow to the Miami line and an advantage for Judon and Uche coming off the edge.
The Dolphins game plan will include a lot of ground attack but we will see Tua in an expanded role compared to last year. Look for Gesicki and Waddle to see lots of targets short and in the intermediate area. Parker and Gesicki will see one on one jump ball passes. Tua will get to throw some deep shots this game as well. Something everyone wants to see. The addition of Albert Wilson and Will Fuller V will help all around too however Fuller V is out for this game serving his suspension for PEDs. I expect Tua and the Dolphins to score enough to win this game.
Josh McDaniels will certainly have plays dialed up to help Mac Jones through his first start. I think they keep the game simple with a run first attack and throw a lot off of play-action. The Patriots starting mac Jones is a favor for the Dolphins who probably spent prep time focusing on Cam Newton. The Dolphins struggle with rushing quarterbacks. This will not be a problem with Jones taking snaps. The revolving door of Patriots running backs will surely be in use in this game. Damien Harris is expected to be a breakout this year but JJ Taylor has some juice in him as well. James White will be the passing down back. The two big tight end additions will be Mac Jones main targets along with Meyers. The tight ends will be matchup vs veteran safeties and rookie Jevon Holland. This will be the key matchups.
I see this game playing out tight and close till the end. Both teams will have a strong defense. I give the advantage offensively to the Dolphins. They focused on building around Tua, and they succeeded in getting weapons. The Dolphins also have the best kicker in the NFL which may play an important role late in the game. Look it up if you don’t think Sanders has surpassed Tucker in the recent year. I think the Dolphins win a close game 27-20. Tua throws for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Jaylen Waddle scores in his debut.
Based on the odds Vegas has the game projected 23-20 in favor of New England. I think the Dolphins can beat Mac Jones and their rivals as they look to improve on their 2020 success and make the postseason this year. Two meetings with the Patriots will be critical and this is the first step. An improved Tua and offense combined with a strong defense get the job done.