We are finally here! This Thursday marks the start of the 2022 season and with a beautiful slate of football games to introduce the season, this is going to be one of the best inaugural weeks the NFL has seen in a long time.
One of the most interesting matchups is the New England Patriots traveling to Miami to face the Dolphins. This heated AFC Eastern rivalry has been one of the best in the league and proves to be a huge test for the Patriots to start the season.
To put it bluntly, the test for the Patriots doesn't come circumstantially or situationally, it comes annually. In the last 9 seasons the Patriots have a 103-42 record or a 71% win rate which is the best record of any team in that span. However, when playing in Miami during that span the Patriots are 2-7 or a 22% win rate.
This has been known for sometime now, the Patriots have a very tough time in Miami. Everyone remembers the Miami Miracle right? With 7 seconds left on the clock Miami completes a series of laterals as Kenyan Drake is credited for a 69-yard TD run to win the game with 0's on the clock. While it's hard to think that will happen again this year, let's take a closer look and see if we can predict how this year's gonna go.
The Patriots did not have a tremendous offseason, losing key offensive lineman but adding a dangerous weapon in Devante Parker. They also lost some very key coaches including offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and lineman coach Carmen Bricillo. The Dolphins on the other hand had one of the most expensive offseasons in history, seemingly improving their offense in every area. The biggest problem for the Dolphins happens to be the strength for the Patriots though and that's their Quarterbacks. The Patriots have second year Mac Jones coming off his first offseason in the program and should have a strong season with a very high floor for his play. On the other hand, Dolphins' third year Tua Tagovailoa is unpredictable at best. He is an accurate thrower but has never wowed with his performances and struggles with his deep passes. With key additions on offense like Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead, Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert and returning rookie of the year runner-up Jaylen Waddle however, Tagovailoa will have so many options it will be very difficult for him to fail this year.
The Patriots pre-season struggles are notable this year, their offensive line in particular. With the departure of Bricillo and Scarnecchia in the last two years, this O-line seems lost. Trent Brown has been lazy again, Isaiah Wynn has been in trade talks, first round pick Cole Strange has been good in passing plays but has not been stellar creating holes for runs. Mac Jones has also showed signs of aggravation possibly due to the team splitting play-calling between coaches Patricia and Judge, Jones got a full 6 months to work with his coaches but running two different systems for two different coaches will take time for a 10-year vet much less a second year 24-year old. The pre-season was capped by a 23-6 loss to Josh McDaniels nd the Raiders where the team looked dreadful and slow. While this is just pre-season, the Pats need to do something to get better physically, but most importantly mentally.
The Dolphins offense is maybe the most stacked in the league on paper but I do believe it will take them a little while to fully get their chemistry and timing down to 100%. This is why I think this game will be a lot closer than some might expect. I believe that the Dolphins will edge out a victory in the end, but almost slip due to a late comeback from Mac Jones. The Dolphins will go out to a early lead and continue to score going into halftime 17-7. The Patriots secondary won't be able to hold down all of the options on Miami's offense as Hill and Gesicki both score touchdowns. The Patriots and Dolphins will both score on opening drives in the third to make it 24-14. In the 4th, The Dolphins score again making it 27-14 before Mac Jones leads two back-to-back scoring drives to make it 27-24 and run out of time at the very end.
I believe this result is good for both teams. The Dolphins obviously get a W in week 1, but the Patriots get a huge boost to team morale for their 4th quarter performance. Mac Jones throws for 270 yards 2 touchdowns and a pick and Damien Harris has another score on the ground. A bright side on the defensive side of the ball is the run defense and the defensive line.
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