New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins will face each other in the opening round of the NFL 2021 season. The hosts eye a playoff spot at the end of the regular season, as they missed it last time. On the other hand, the away side hopes for a positive record in the regular season, and we’ll see if it would be enough for the playoffs.
The Pats had a disappointing campaign in 2020, as they finished 3rd in AFC East with a 7-9 record. It was strange to watch them without Tom Brady, who joined the Buccaneers and brought them the Lombardi trophy. The Dolphins had a respectable 10-6 record, but the playoffs slipped out of their hands in the last round of the regular season. They want to give it another shot and try to reach the knockout phase this time.
New England Patriots – Will they improve this season?
New England had a promising preseason, as the hosts celebrated in all three matches. They were better than Washington Football Team, the Eagles, and the Giants, hoping to keep up the pace when it matters the most. The Pats struggled on the quarterback position last season, as Cam Newton couldn’t fill Brady’s boots. Despite getting a second chance, the Patriots released Super Cam, and they will rely on rookie Mac Jones this season. New England signed two elite tight ends, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, which is definitely an improvement.
If we look at the Pats’ backline, we could easily put it in the top three defenses in the league. They re-signed Kyle Van Noy, while Dont’a Hightower is back in the roster after missing out on the last season. However, Stefon Gilmore will miss the first six games, which might be an issue for the hosts. Moreover, he might be traded as well since the Pats still haven’t extended his contract.
Expected Line-Up (Offense): Damien Harris, Gunner Olszewski, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Jonnu Smith, Jakob Johnson, Isaiah Wynn, Mike Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Trent Brown
Expected Line-Up (Defense): Deatrich Wise Jr., Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Matt Judon, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, J.C. Jackson, Adrian Phillips, Devin McCourty, Joejuan Williams
Quarter Back: Mac Jones
Kicker: Quinn Nordin
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Miami Dolphins – Can they challenge for the playoff spot?
The Dolphins lost in preseason Week 1 against the Bears but bounced back with two victories over the Falcons and the Bengals. They hope for a solid campaign after missing a chance to secure the playoff spot in the last match of the 2020 regular season. The visitors rely on Tua Tagovailoa, who should be a starting QB after splitting the playing time with Ryan Fitzpatrick last season. However, he didn’t shine in 2020 and would need to raise the level of his performances to lead his team in offense.
Miami suffered certain changes in defense as well. On Sunday afternoon, Kyle Van Noy will be on the opposite side of the field, while Xavien Howard is unhappy since he didn’t get the contract extension. It seems that their chances of catching the playoffs train are pretty slim, but we should have in mind that the Dolphins provided a few surprises last season. The away side would be satisfied with the positive record in the regular season, but we’ll see if it will be enough for the knockout stage.
Expected Line-Up (Offense): Myles Gaskin, DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, Greg Little, Solomon Kindley, Michael Deiter, Robert Hunt, Jesse Davis
Expected Line-Up (Defense): Emmanuel Ogbah, Raekwon Davis, Christian Wilkins, Andrew Van Ginkel, Elandon Roberts, Jerome Baker, Brennan Scarlett, Xavien Howard, Eric Rowe, Jason McCourty, Byron Jones
Quarter Back: Tua Tagovailoa
Kicker: Jason Sanders
Expert Pick #1 – New England Patriots -3 @-120
Mac Jones had an excellent preseason, and if he can keep up where he left off, the Pats could get the job done here. They will rely on a rookie QB this season, and although the Dolphins’ defense is well-packed, I see the hosts covering the spread in the opening match of the campaign. That’s going to be my first pick.
Expert Pick #2 – Over 43 @-105
Although New England is very tight in the back, and seven of their last eight games went Under, I anticipate an efficient match here. The margin is not unbeatable, and the odds bring a good value, so I will go with the Over as my second bet.
Expert Pick #3 – Patriots to win by 1-6 margin @+310
It seems reasonable to back the Pats to win by a 1-6 margin when looking for a long-shot bet. Miami will search for a surprise here and look forward to keeping this match tight until the end. Therefore, I don’t expect the winning margin to be high, and I’ll go with this pick as a second alternative.