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Week 1 Patriots vs Dolphins: Keys to the game

Related: Patriots vs Dolphins: Previewing the season opener with The Phinsider

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Finally, we have some real football to talk about as the New England Patriots kick off the 2020 campaign with a Week 17 rematch versus the Miami Dolphins.

The Patriots will look to seek revenge versus their divisional rivals after the Dolphins handed the team arguably its worst regular season loss in the last two decades as they stunned New England 27-24, spoiling a first round bye in the 2019 playoffs.

Miami is certainly not a top team in this league, however, they aren’t nearly as bad as they were last year so they are nothing to scoff at. After winning five of their last seven games to close the 2019 season, the Dolphins added several big name free agents that should continue to change the culture that Brian Flores is building down in Miami. AFC East journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick is 3-10 against the Patriots in his career but will look to tie Ben Roethlisberger for the second most wins against Bill Belichick’s Patriots teams.

This will be a tough first matchup for the Patriots with several newcomers and rookies set to see a lot of snaps without much live football action and this game will be closer than many expect. This game will be closer than many expect and may be ugly at times, but the Patriots are the more talented team and should be able to pull one out despite the uncertainty surrounding the team. With that being said, let’s hop into the keys to a New England win:

Limiting DeVante Parker

This is certainly easier said than done for the Patriots defense and in particular, reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore after Parker torched the team for eight catches and 137 yards back in Week 17 last year. Parker is a true “do-it-all”-type receiver who can play all three spots, uses his big body to his ability and is strong after the catch. Limiting him from big plays will be crucial for the Patriots defense to stay in check as Parker is clearly the Dolphins’ top weapon offensively.

Relying on James White to allow for Cam Newton to get comfortable

It feels like we’ve been saying this for years now, but with the Patriots officially kicking off a new era of football with Cam Newton as their starting quarterback, he will need White to efficiently move the ball and allow for himself to get comfortable in his new offense. We saw how much Newton utilized Christian McCaffrey in his early years in Carolina and with White serving as a close second to McCaffrey in terms of receiving out of the backfield, using him more than normal may help the new QB settle in quicker and allow for the Patriots to move the ball in early games this season.

Getting Newton going won’t be by taking shots downfield or getting too creative, it’s on screens, outs and angles to James White — especially on third down when Miami will try to hone in on Julian Edelman.

Being strong against the run

The Patriots’ front seven got the ball ran down its throat down the stretch last year and it showed that there are indeed some holes in New England’s otherwise elite defense. With Beau Allen starting the season on injured reserve, the Patriots have to limit Miami’s balanced attack that is led by Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. Jason McCourty said this week that stopping the Dolphins rushing attack is their top priority defensively. Doing that will force Ryan Fitzpatrick, who can be erratic at times, to try and beat you by throwing all over the best secondary in football.

Prediction: Patriots 21 - Dolphins 17

Did you know?

  • Cam Newton will become just the second not-Tom Brady quarterback to start for the Patriots in Week 1 at New England since 2002. (Jimmy Garoppolo, 2014 at Arizona)
  • Julian Edelman will play in his 132nd regular season game which ranks second most all time by a Patriots wide receiver, trailing only Matthew Slater at 174. Edelman’s next catch will be the 600th of his career, inching himself closer to Wes Welker’s franchise record of 672.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his 14th start against the Patriots in his career. He is 3-10 with 3,444 yards and a 21-to-22 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
  • The Patriots will be wearing their new home uniforms to officially kick off a new era of Patriots football.