For many, this game is a simple blowout in which the Patriots will dominate the Dolphins and wrap up victory by halftime.
Many may be surprised.
The Miami Dolphins are being given seven points with the spread by Vegas. This, in my mind, is too much.
Of course, the Vegas' oddsmakers are smart guys, and they have good reason to give the Dolphins such a hefty advantage considering this fixture last season was a blowout in favor of the Patriots, 41-14. Importantly from that game, however, the Dolphins beat themselves rather than succumbing to the might of Tom Brady (as Patriots fans like to speak).
Offensively that night, the Patriots put up 20 points to the Dolphins' 14. However, they added a further 21 from interceptions and a Brandon Tate kick return.
Despite the incredible returns of Darren Sproles and Randall Cobb last night, I don't expect that that will be the norm for this weekend. The likelihood of even one more touchdown return this weekend is very low.
As for the interceptions, those will fall on Chad Henne as always. Henne is overly criticized in my mind, considering he has only started 27 games in his career. Most quarterbacks are at least given until their third season to prove themselves. While Henne is entering his fourth season, his rookie year doesn't really register, as he was barely active.
Henne's problem is that when he is asked to win games, he hasn't been able to do it.
Last year, the Patriots' two interceptions for touchdowns came in the fourth quarter when the Dolphins were forced to try to get back into the game. This weekend, the defense should be able to prevent the team from getting into a hole, while there shouldn't be any special teams boosts for the Patriots.
If Henne can manage the game and simply complement the running game on offense, the Patriots will not run away with a big lead. Re-signing Larry Johnson should give them an axe to grind repeatedly against a defense that has more question marks than you would think.
The transition in the front seven is definitely not settled or complete until they prove it in the regular season, especially considering how inactive Albert Haynesworth's preseason has been. The release of Brandon Meriweather may not have been that big a surprise, but coupled with the release of James Sanders could pose some major issues on the back end early in the year.
With a guy like Reggie Bush moving into the slot at times and Brandon Marshall going deep, the Dolphins could put a lot of pressure on the young safety pairing that will probably consist of Pat Chung and Sergio Brown.
Defensively is where the game really gets interesting, though.
The Dolphins look like they have one of the best defenses in the whole league this year, and it has been tailored to shut down the Patriots. Kevin Burnett's arrival gives the team a second linebacker alongside Karlos Dansby, who is athletic enough to take the Patriots' vaunted young tight ends out of the game in single coverage.
Sean Smith and Vontae Davis won't get their hands on the ball too often, but they excel at preventing their man from doing so also. Cameron Wake should give Matt Light fits on the outside while a lot more will be expected of Koa Misi in his second season across from him.
The Patriots love to create mismatches with their two tight end sets so that they can take advantage of guys like Danny Woodhead, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, who are threats in both facets of the game. Most teams cannot defend that set with their base defense, forcing them into a nickel set, but the Dolphins will not have that problem.
The Dolphins will be able to hold the Patriots' offense, it's simply a matter of how much they can manage on the offensive side of the ball....but hey, you've already got a touchdown advantage so they don't need to do that much.
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