The Patriots dropped a surprisingly tight game against the Eagles on opening weekend. The offense looked like a real offense. The defense started the year at an insanely high level, limiting the defending NFC champs to effectively 16 points. The Dolphins secured their first win of the season after beating the Chargers on the road in a thriller. The Dolphins’ offense looked explosive, while the Dolphins’ defense looked very timid under Fangio’s lead. So what does all that mean for the Week 2 matchup between the Patriots and Dolphins? Let’s see!
Dolphins 60 wins; Patriots 55 wins
Patriots Offense vs. Dolphins Defense
The Patriots’ offense started the season with a first quarter that looked like Matt Patricia, not Bill O’Brien, calling the plays. However, the remaining three quarters resulted in some high-quality football, and a brief stretch where Mac Jones was perhaps the hottest quarterback on the planet. However, they topped out at 20 points and couldn’t convert when it was needed most.
The Dolphins played an unusually conservative brand of defense against Justin Herbert and the Chargers to start the year. The Patriots should not expect that to continue on Sunday. The Dolphins will be able to show more of their true identity on defense, as they probably do not fear Jones as they do Herbert.
The Patriots will want to play a possession game against the explosive Miami offense, starting with long, grueling drives on offense. The team would like to grind away the clock and ride running backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott. Unfortunately, the big boys up front responsible for clearing the way are dealing with myriad injuries.
The Patriots started two backup guards last week, and, while they kept Mac clean, they could not generate much push against a lighter defensive interior. The return of Cole Strange and Mike Onwenu would go a long way to helping the Patriots secure their first victory on Sunday night.
The passing game will be able to find success again in the short middle of the field. Mac was cooking last week against a very talented secondary. He should build off that performance against a depleted Miami secondary. Kendrick Bourne should continue his resurgence Sunday night, while the return of Devante Parker will be an upgrade over Kayshon Boutte. Hunter Henry should again provide a consistent security blanket for Jones and will be busy.
Patriots Defense vs. Dolphins Offense
If the Patriots allow it, the Dolphins will look to turn Sunday night into a track meet. The key to the game will be to force the Dolphins to play a brand of football they don’t seem to want to play: running the ball. The Patriots should play a conservative brand of defense, reminiscent of their “bend but don’t break” days, inviting the Dolphins to run. Making the Dolphins drive the field will shorten the game and play into the overall game plan.
However, the Pats will still pick and choose their spots to pressure Tua. They will try to simulate pressures, in hopes of getting any of their premier pass rushers one-on-one. The Pats have a host of pass rushers who should win their fair share of one-on-one situations with the Dolphins’ offensive line. The more they can confuse and pressure Tua, the more likely they will be to secure a couple of important takeaways.
Watching how the Patriots defend the Dolphins receiving corps will be interesting. They have successfully stuck Jonathan Jones on Tyreek Hill in the past, with or without help. Unfortunately, Jones has been hobbled with an ankle injury this week, and the Patriots probably don’t want to feed rookie Christian Gonzalez to the wolves. This doesn’t account for Jaylen Waddle either, who is Tyreek Hill lite. This might be a game where the Pats miss a sticky man coverage player in Jack Jones.
Just for fun, try to watch Keion White when he’s on the field this week. He is a STUD.
Rookie punter Bryce Baringer was everything the Pats hoped for last week and more. He had one slight hiccup when he bombed a 75-yard punt and outkicked his coverage. That’ll happen with 75-yard punts, though.
Rookie kicker Chase Ryland didn’t get much of an opportunity to showcase his strong leg, but he nailed both PATs and consistently sent the ball through the end zone on kickoffs.
The Dolphins feature ex-Pat Jake Bailey as punter and sound veteran Jason Sanders as kicker. The Pats will be happy if this turns into a “Jake Bailey revenge game,” as it means the explosive Miami offense is stuck in neutral.
The Patriots will need to keep this game close to have a chance. This game will turn ugly if the Pats fall behind early by double digits again this week. This might be a lower-scoring affair, as the Pats will want long, clock-burning drives on both sides of the ball. Additionally, the weather may favor the Patriots after Hurricane Lee blows through.
The Pats get it done and keep it close, finally getting a signature walk-off win in the Mac Jones era with a late, game-securing drive. Patriots win 20-19.