The Patriots are 1-0 on the season after winning a game that they were 9.5-point underdogs. While the Cardinals are a very good team, the Dolphins present a tougher challenge for Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots offense. The Dolphins have play-makers at each level of their defense and held a very potent Seattle offense to 12 points, although Russell Wilson was injured and couldn’t run nearly as well. Offensively the Dolphins have a very young and talented skill group while also overhauling their offense line, which is flush with talent. The good news is the game will be played in Foxboro, as games in Miami early in the season are always a challenge due to the heat and humidity in South Florida.
Block Ndamukong Suh: The best player on the field for the Dolphins is the $100M man, Ndamukong Suh. The Patriots have two rookies and two second year players on the interior, so the challenge is going to be tough. The Patriots should look to try and double Suh in both the run and pass game. Another way to minimize his effectiveness as a rusher is quick passes to the perimeter and misdirection plays. The Patriots were able to effectively call and execute those plays against the Arizona Cardinals to move the ball down the field.
Julian Edelman needs to remain the catalyst: The Patriots offense runs mainly though Edelman because of his ability to move the chains and get open quick. The Dolphins made changes at the CB position, but Edelman is a good matchup against Byron Maxwell on the right side of the field. With Rob Gronkowski’s status uncertain for this game, the pressure falls on Edelman to carry the offense. If he has his usual game, the Patriots offense should be in good shape.
Keep Ryan Tannehill in the pocket: The key to containing mobile QBs is to force them to sit in the pocket. The key will being able to rush controlled because it only takes one scramble to extend a drive to turn a potential 3 and out into a touchdown drive. Last week, Carson Palmer was no threat to escape the pocket which allowed the rush to sell out towards the QB and resulted in 3 sacks. The pressure falls on starting defensive ends Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long to not lose the edge. If the interior of Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Anthony Johnson, and Trey Flowers can push the pocket and collapse it on the QB then it should make things tough for Tannehill.
Patriots secondary must limit the impact of Jarvis Landry: Very much like Edelman, Landry is the Dolphins’ most effective skill player and the catalyst for their offense. Landry primarily plays out of the slot, which puts the onus on mainly Justin Coleman to stick with him. Coleman mostly matched up against John Brown in Week 1, although Landry is a much tougher cover because you’re covering one of the best WRs in the AFC. Landry will put up some decent numbers because he’s too good to shut out, but the Patriots can limit the impact of his catches.
Overall, I predict a 27-23 win for the Patriots. The Dolphins are a tougher opponent for the Patriots to match up against because their defense doesn’t have the obvious fatal flaw, but at the same time the Patriots offense has a couple of match-ups they can take advantage of. The Patriots offensively are going to need everyone to contribute in some capacity because Garoppolo isn’t Tom Brady and will make a couple mistakes on the field.