Patriots at Dolphins Preview


Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins open their 2014 regular season with a visit from the New England Patriots on Sunday as both teams strive to put up their first win in a crucial divisional game.

There are numerous headlines coming into this season opener for both teams, for the Patriots they mostly involve Rob Gronkowski’s status coming off a season ending injury last season, and for the Dolphins the headlines involve anything from Knowshon Moreno, to the totally revamped offensive line.

Last season the Miami Dolphins stole a Week 15 home victory against the Patriots, in what seemed to set the Miami Dolphins up for an easy road to the playoffs, a road that ended with two losses against two divisional opponents, ultimately knocking the Dolphins out of the playoff run. This victory for the Dolphins in week 15 of last season snapped a 7 game losing streak to the Patriots, dating all the way back to 2009 when Chad Henne was quarterbacking the Miami Dolphins.

Although this is a completely new season, the last time the New England Patriots started their season in Miami, the Patriots and Tom Brady accumulated a total of 517 yards through the air, in a game that was a passing clinic that resulted in 906 passing yards combined between the two teams.

The new-look Miami Dolphins head into a season that is filled with optimism, yet uncertainty as the NFL preseason was hard to read for Dolphins fans. The Dolphins have a completely revamped offensive line compared to last year, yet seemed to have made improvements in almost all aspects.

The addition of Bill Lazor’s new offense will definitely be something to watch for the Dolphins, as one highly anticipated matchup includes Mike Wallce, and a new addition to the Patriots, Darrelle Revis. The passing game between the two teams should really set the pace the whole game as we watch a high paced Miami offense, against a Patriot’s passing game that has shredded defenses the past decade.

On the New England Patriot’s side of the ball Rob Gronkowski will be something to watch for come Sunday.  Gronkowski has not played a complete season since 2011, and hopes to do so this year to keep the Patriots on track. Gronkowski has publicly stated that he is “ready to go” and excited for Sunday, however head coach Bill Belichick has stated otherwise, noting his status is uncertain.

One other matchup to watch will be between the rookie offensive tackle Ja’waun James, and New England Patriot Rob Ninkovich. This will be James’ first real test in the NFL as he looks to protect his starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill who has the most sacked quarterback a year ago. If James and the Dolphins offensive line can protect Tannehill, the Dolphins may be able to gain an upper hand against the Patriots.

Lamar Miller is expected to start at running back for the Dolphins on Sunday. The offseason for Knowshon Moreno was a roller coaster ride as he battled his share of injuries. Although Miller is expected to take a majority of the reps on Sunday, watch for Knowshon Moreno to come in on select packages, take carries, and to make an impact for the Dolphins.

Lastly, the New England Patriots made headlines on Monday as they claimed former Dolphins safety Don Jones from waivers. Jones was recently cut from the Dolphins roster last week, and may provide insight into the Dolphin’s defensive schemes for the Patriots. Same goes for Marcus Thigpen, another former Miami Dolphin in which the Patriots signed this week.  Thigpen was a return specialist and a running back with the Dolphins, and could also provide a mental gain for the Patriots.

In terms of odds for the game on Sunday, the Patriots take the advantage on the points spread, estimated as 4.5 point favorites.

The Patriots at Dolphins will kickoff Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. EDT.