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NFL schedule release 2021: Patriots enter season opener as slight favorites over the Dolphins

Related: Patriots to open 2021 season at home against Miami

Miami Dolphins Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

For the second year in a row, the New England Patriots will open the regular season at home against the Miami Dolphins. As was officially announced by the league on Wednesday morning, the two AFC East rivals will meet on September 12th at 4:20 pm ET.

Last year’s season opener saw New England win in rather convincing fashion. The team dominated running the football, played some opportunistic defense, and when all was said and done had scored 21 points to the Dolphins’ 11. That victory, however, was not a sign of things to come: Miami eventually finished the 2020 season with a better record (10-6) than the 7-9 Patriots and also won the rematch in South Beach 22-12.

Heading into the 2021 season opener, it would therefore not be a surprise if the Dolphins were listed as the favorites to win. At the moment, however, the oddsmakers still have faith in the Patriots: according to DraftKings SportsBook, Bill Belichick’s team is seen as 2.5-point favorites with the over/under being set at 45.5 points.

A lot can and will happen between now and the two teams’ meeting in early September, but those early odds are an indication how both teams are perceived at the moment.

Miami is seen as a wildcard, with the team’s fortunes closely tied to second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The fifth overall selection in last year’s draft was inconsistent in his first half-season as the Dolphins’ starter, and will need to prove that he can successfully lead the team’s offense on a play-by-play basis.

As for the Patriots, it seem as if the bookmakers feel confident in their offseason acquisitions and how they will work alongside either incumbent starting quarterback Cam Newton or first-round rookie Mac Jones. Add the fact that Belichick is still on the sidelines as New England’s head coach, and that the team might be playing in front of its home crowd for the first time in over 600 days, and you can see why the odds favor New England.

Will the Patriots live up to that status, though? Only time will tell. The season opener, after all, can have its own set of rules — especially given that Belichick-coached teams typically do not play their best football until further down the stretch.