Miami @ New England
Recommended Wager: NE -6.5
IR: WR Albert Wilson (opt out), Vince Biegel (Achilles)
New England Patriots:
IR: WR Marqise Lee (opt out), RT Marcus Cannon (opt out), LB Dont’a Hightower (opt out), S Patrick Chung (opt out)
Spread breakdown: Week 1 spreads can be wonky since they’re available to the public far sooner than most weeks. NE has bounced back and forth between being a 3 point favorite and a 6.5 point favorite. As of writing, the Vegas consensus is still 6.5
When Miami has the ball
The Dolphins are coming off a season where they were, well, not very good. They drafted QB Tua Tagovailoa 5th overall in the draft, but Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter to start the season. It’s a logical move by the Dolphins — there was no pre-season, Tua is coming off a serious hip injury, and the Dolphins offensive line is a disaster. Last year they were one of the worst offensive lines we’ve seen in a long time, and they did little in the offseason to help. The only changes were signing ex Patriots C Ted Karras and drafting LT Austin Jackson 18th overall. Karras was a one year starter in New England where he was a fine/nothing special type, where Jackson was probably a positional need reach. I would expect more revolving doors from this unit.
WR DeVante Parker inked a sweet 4 year, 40 million dollar contract after this breakout season last year. He’ll lead the receiving unit, with second year wideout Preston Williams and Jakeem Grant. The backfield will be a combination of perpetually-injured-but-still-plays-because-he’s-a-badass Matt Brieda (nickname is a work in progress) and Jordan Howard.
The Patriots defense was the best in the league last year by any reasonable measure, but if you’re expecting that level of play to continue, think again. First and foremost, defenses regress. But the Patriots also lost two key contributors to COVID-19 opt outs (S Pat Chung and LB Dont’a Hightower), two more to the Dolphins (DE Kyle Van Noy and LB Elandon Robers), and LB Jamie Collins to the Lions. That leaves major questions in the front 7 that New England didn’t answer this off-season. They’ll need significant contributions from several players who have never contributed on this level before. That said, the secondary is still one of the best in the league — we should fully expect 2019 DPOY Stephon Gilmore to shadow Parker.
When the Patriots have the ball:
Perhaps you’ve heard, but the Patriots have turnover at the QB position. Cam Newton will start at QB for Josh McDaniels’s offense. Newton missed most of last year with a foot injury, but is healthy and ready to go. Outside of an obvious outlier 2015 season where he was a legit MVP candidate, Newton has been an above average QB for most of his career, and that’s what we should expect from the 31 year old signal caller. The offensive line is still a solid unit — they lost RT Marcus Cannon to COVID-19 opt outs, but they got C David Andrews back after he missed all of 2019. The problems will be exactly what they were last year — nobody outside of 34 year old Julian Edelman can get open. The Patriots have hope that 2019 first round pick N’Keal Harry can step his game up, but his issues separating from corners go back to his days at Oregon. The only other changes the Patriots made were adding a pair of tight ends in the 3rd round of the draft (Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene).
The Dolphins defense should still suck, just less… which means they still suck. They essentially were able to generate zero pressure on the year, and did nothing but add Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson in the off-season. Van Noy had a solid season for the Patriots, but he isn’t the type of player who is going to fundamentally fix a bad pass rush. Lawson, meanwhile, has always been better as a run defender then a true pass rusher. They made big moves in the secondary by adding former cowboys CB Byron Jones. Jones should play opposite Xavien Howard, who has shown flashes of greatness but was mostly horrendous last year. Depending on which Howard shows up this year, it could be a duo that causes offense problems.
That’s it for now, bitches.