The Miami Dolphins will try to start the 2014 NFL season by making a bold statement. Defeating the reigning AFC East champion New England Patriots at home on September 7 would certainly make an impact across the league and help the franchise carry positive momentum into the season.
The Dolphins enter the game as a clear underdog, according to Odds Shark. The national perception of the Patriots is always high because of sustained success the organization has benefited from after the Tom Brady era started.
Looking at the 2013 matchups between the Dolphins and Patriots, the Dolphins were able to steal a victory in the waning moments of Week 15, when unheralded defensive back Michael Thomas earned NFL Defensive Player of the Week in just 16 defensive snaps. Their Week 8 matchup told a different ending though, as the Dolphins couldn’t hold on to a 17-3 halftime lead.
The rest of the Dolphins’ season proved to be as inconsistent as their games against New England. Dealing with a completely inept offensive line, head coach Joe Philbin couldn’t muster two more victories out of his team, so the Dolphins once again missed the playoffs.
With a new general manager and offensive coordinator, the Dolphins have much more depth and talent on the roster. The offensive line features five new starters with center Mike Pouncey out with injury, but they appeared ready in the preseason to take on a powerful defensive line like the Patriots’.
The Patriots also reloaded in the offseason, signing all-everything cornerback Darrelle Revis to lock down one part of the field. The superstar terrorized the AFC East when he was a member of the New York Jets, logging 19 interceptions in six seasons.
It’s time to gander around the sports world to see how NFL experts think this important Week 1 matchup will go. After listing their picks, we’ll go into more detail as to why the experts made their selection.
First up are the experts at ESPN.
|ESPN Expert Picks: New England @ Miami|
|Pigskin Pick 'Em||Patriots|
Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com offered his take on the Dolphins’ roster heading into the season:
They have an entirely new offensive line, which is not necessarily a bad thing after quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked an NFL-high 58 times last season. Meanwhile, their defensive line has not only quality depth, but also high-end quality across the board that is a tough matchup for a Patriots offensive line in transition.
So for those who believe that winning football games starts at the line of scrimmage, there is reason for optimism in Miami.
Of course, there is more to it than that, and another major storyline with the Dolphins is a new offensive system under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor, who is installing a Chip Kelly-based, Eagles-type attack. The Dolphins hope to play fast and give Tannehill better protection as he continues to grow into the job in his third NFL season.
The Dolphins have a lot of new pieces in place, so playing a tough opponent Week 1 likely isn’t the best place to get everyone on the same page. The incumbent leaders will need to lead by example.
Possessing as much defensive line talent as any team in the NFL, the Dolphins can give the Patriots and Tom Brady nightmares. If the Dolphins defense can create pressure with just the fourth-down linemen, it’ll be a long day for Brady.
The experts at Fox Sports also unanimously believe in the Patriots.
|Fox Sports Expert Picks: New England @ Miami|
Ross Devonport of Fox Sports believes the Dolphins will succeed in 2014 if their retooled offensive line works.
"The Dolphins will only go as far as the offensive line can take them. It's as simple as that. It's rare to see one team start a season with a completely different unit than it finished the previous season, but that's the situation in Miami."
With so much turnover on the offensive line, it’s quite possible the analysts who picked against the Dolphins just don’t believe this line is ready to withhold the Patriots’ defense.
Let’s see how the USA Today experts feel about this matchup.
|USA Today Expert Picks: New England @ Miami|
|Linsdsay H. Jones||Patriots|
The Dolphins finally are picked to win by an expert. Gary Mihoces goes against the grain by picking Miami, but it appears once again the winning ways of the Patriots provide security as a selection. Analyst Jarrett Bell used his “lock” on the Patriots victory.
Finally, let’s see how Bleacher Report’s own featured columnists feel this Week 1 matchup will play out.
|Bleacher Report Expert Picks: New England @ Miami|
Once again, it’s unanimous. Every Bleacher Report expert picked the Patriots to overcome the Dolphins’ efforts. The main reason is the health of star tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe reported that Gronkowski would do whatever it takes to play against the Dolphins.
"I’m ready to go. I’ll be playing. I’m just getting it out of the way," Gronkowski said. "I ain’t going every single day this week, no way. Getting it out of the way now."
Bleacher Report featured columnist Erik Frenz had this to say about this Sunday’s matchup.
We're seeing both ends of that spectrum in this game. For the Patriots, it's a group of coaches who have been in place for a while, using a few new players, combined with some systemic changes. For the Dolphins, it's a brand-new unit up front and a brand-new scheme.
How these two teams adjust to one another, while sorting out their own issues, will have a direct impact on which team starts 1-0 and which starts 0-1.
Some say the only constant is change, and in the NFL, that’s definitely a true statement. The new-look offense for the Dolphins could come out like fireworks, but it could also flop against a talented Patriots defense.
There are so many unknowns with this Dolphins roster, it’s hard to be confident that the Dolphins will win a second consecutive game against Belichick’s Patriots.
Nevertheless, it’s football season, and all of our questions will be answered soon enough.