The Dolphins were the last team the Patriots collided with during the 2019 regular season, and much to their surprise, the Patriots got the worst of the collision. The Dolphins, who were guided by first-year coach Brian Flores last year, beat the Patriots, 27-24, at Gillette Stadium, wrecking New England’s bid for a bye and revealing flaws that would be fatally exposed by the Titans in a first-round loss.
The Dolphins, who spent in the range of $200 million in free agency in the offseason, signed linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts, and center/guard Ted Karras who last played on the Patriots. These former Pats could come to haunt them in Week 1. Brian Flores, in his first matchup playing his former team, got wrecked in Week 2 of last year when the Patriots crushed the Dolphins 43-0. But in the last game of the season, the Dolphins made a bigger statement when they just edged out the Patriots, in a game where New England was playing for a first round bye. The next Brian Flores and Bill Belichick coaching matchup will occur Week 1 of the 2020 season, with the coaching matchup tied 1-1.
Preview/Things to Look Out For
The Dolphins will face the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, Week 1, with no fans. Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, who are the lead CBS crew, are assigned this game. For the Patriots, this is the first time in 20 seasons that they will be without their star QB, Tom Brady. This is also one of the first times in many years where the Patriots are not favored to win the AFC East. Besides Brady leaving the Pats, what has left many people to not believe in the Pats this year is their opt outs. The Patriots lead the NFL in players opted out. These players include tackle Marcus Cannon, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, tight end Matt LaCosse, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Dan Vitale, receiver Marqise Lee and guard Najee Toran. The Patriots still have the best coach, Bill Belichick, so need to worry if you're a Patriots fan.
While the Patriots may be on the decline, many people across the country are excited about the Dolphins upcoming season. The Dolphins were very active in free agency: they signed CB Byron Jones this offseason, who is the 2nd highest paid CB. They also signed Jordan Howard and speedster Matt Breida, who will serve as the Dolphins two RB's. Probably the biggest move of all, is the drafting of future franchise QB, Tua Tagovailoa. Other signings included Emmanuel Ogbah, Shaq Lawson, and of course the former Patriots- Kyle Van Noy who is a great LB, Ted Karras, and Elandon Roberts.
A win over the Dolphins on Sunday for the Pats wouldn’t just be revenge for Flores’s victory last December. It also would stand as an early warning that although Brady may be gone, the Patriots don’t plan to concede their usual spot atop the AFC East.
QB v. QB- Dolphins Ryan Fitzpatrick v. Patriots Cam Newton
Cam Newton has never faced the Dolphins in his career. This is also the first game he will be on a team other than the Carolina Panthers. The former MVP and NFC champion signed with the Patriots late in the offseason on a minimum deal. For the Dolphins, rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa wont start Week 1. Instead it will be Ryan Fitzpatrick, who led the Dolphins in rushing yards last year with 243. Fitzpatrick will look to have a repeat performance of what we saw from him in Week 17 against the Patriots, when he completed 68.2% of his passes for 320 yards, including a game-winning touchdown.
Top Matchup- Dolphins WR1 v. Patriots CB1- WR DeVante Parker v. CB Stephon Gilmore
This will definitely be the best matchup of the game! Stephon Gilmore, who is the best cornerback in the league, hasn't been close to the best when matching up against Parker. Gilmore intercepted a league-best six passes, broke up another 20, and returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns (including one in the 43-0 rout of the Dolphins in Week 2). He was the anchor for a pass defense that allowed just 13 touchdowns, intercepted 25 passes, and allowed a mere 2,886 yards in the air. These stats are impressive, but the stats against Parker aren't. In the Patriots heartbreaking Week 17 loss against the Dolphins, Gilmore struggled all afternoon against Parker, who finished with 8 catches on 11 targets for 137 yards, many coming at potentially pivotal moments. This was probably the most puzzling element to the Pats heartbreaking loss. Parker is a productive receiver who finished last season with 72 catches for 1,202 yards and 9 touchdowns — but Gilmore had stifled bigger names and better players all season long. He also locked up Parker in Week 2, denying him any catches.
Both Gilmore and Parker were limited in practice Thursday because of hamstring injuries, but they both should be ready for their latest showdown.
Patriots WR1 v. Dolphins CB1- WR Julian Edelman and CB Byron Jones
This is the first time in Edelman's long career that he will be without best friend and QB Tom Brady. Edelman is 34, and injuries are becoming more common for him. Staying healthy will be vital for him and the Patriots, as Edelman is the only receiver who is reliable as of now. Edelman dealt with a workload of targets last year, as Brady couldn't trust anyone else. Edelman will be matching up against Top 10 CB and new Dolphin, Byron Jones. Jones is one of the more athletic CB's in the league, rather than being more of a lockdown CB. With Jones' athleticism, this can be a good matchup against one of the best route runners in the NFL.
TE v. TE- Mike Gesicki v. Devin Asiasi
Despite a breakout year, Mike Gesicki was still one of the most underrated TE's in the NFL last year. Gesicki has proved to be the best TE in the AFC East since the departure of Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots, who have had trouble at the TE position ever since Gronk left, may continue to struggle at that position if rookies don't step up. The Patriots drafted two TE's on back to back picks in the 2020 draft. One was UCLA TE Devin Asiasi, and the other was Virginia Tech TE Dalton Keene. Asiasi and Keene will be relied on a lot this year, as Ben Watson retired, and Matt LaCosse opted out. Asiasi was probably the best blocking and most durable tight end in the draft. Those fundamentals are often what appeal most to Bill Belichick, who had a long phone call talking to UCLA coach Chip Kelly before drafting Asiasi. The tight end has a few ties to the team, including Julian Edelman, who met Asiasi through San Mateo coach Tim Tulloch.
The Patriots have a ton of motivation coming into this game on a number of different fronts. Of course, there'll be the revenge factor from that Week 17 upset burning within a number of players on the roster (especially Stephon Gilmore). Bill Belichick will be looking to get his first season without Tom Brady off to a strong start. Brady's replacement, Cam Newton, has been working with a chip on his shoulder all offseason. Belichick will have his Patriots ready to roll from the jump, despite the lack of preseason games. We will see if the loss of Brady and all of the Patriots opt-outs affect the result of this game. We will also see if Fitz-magic can strike twice against the Patriots!