Sunday, January 21, 2024

New England Patriots (A) Preview

It’s been 223 days since we last had football and my god a lot has happened but we back to the football now with our Dolphins Patriots preview. From a global pandemic and the toughest living period since WWII to a push to fight against racial inequality in the world.

2020 has been a rollercoaster since Super Bowl LIV at our home, Hard Rock Stadium. That time has dragged, as we’ve all been stuck in our homes with little live sport on TV.

Over the past few months there’s been a gradual increase in sporting action, tieing in with the start of NFL Training Camp and FINALLY AN NFL SEASON. Our Miami Dolphins are back and will be looking to build on an impressive end to last season after beating Sunday’s opponents, New England, ruining their quest for another first-round bye.

The Patriots will embark on a new era in 2020, one without the six-time super bowl winning signal-caller, Tom Brady. 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton will step into Tom’s shoes, and let’s face it, Cam will have some massive ones to fill. Newton will become only the 5th QB to start under Head Coach Bill Belichick since his appointment in 2000. We, on the other hand, have had 21 in that timespan. Twenty-one.

Either way, football is back and that will hopefully soon change when first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa hopefully takes the field later in the year. I’m going to produce one of these previews that I’m about to embark on every single game week to hopefully get FinsNation pumped on a Sunday.

Opponent Profile – New England Patriots

Head Coach – Bill Belichick
Offensive Playcaller- Josh McDaniels
Defensive Playcaller – Bill Belichick/Jerod Mayo/Steve Belichick
Offensive Captains – David Andrews, James White, Cam Newton
Defensive Captains – Devin McCourty, Lawrence Guy, Jason McCourty, Jawhaun Bentley
Special Teams Captain – Matthew Slater
2019 Record – 12-4 (Lost in Wildcard vs TEN)
Key Acquisition – Cam Newton

The 2020 New England Patriots are a hot mystery, no one knows what to expect. By Day 2 of free agency, the Patriots had lost six starters, two captains, and a former All-Pro special-teamer. A fair few of those players actually ended up with the Dolphins, which is something I’ll get back to later. On top of that, in the wave of NFL opt-outs the Pats lost eight more players for the year, the biggest being stud linebacker Donta’ Hightower.

Bill Belichick enters his 21st season as Head Coach of the New England Patriots, with a new starting quarterback, without a preseason, and for the first time in a while will be leading a team that is not expected to retain the AFC East. This COVID-tampered season we’re starting is making this game almost impossible to preview as it’s so difficult to predict what’s going to go down when we’ve not seen any football from New England since January.

That being said, here’s what we can take from New England’s offense before they face the Dolphins on Sunday. OC Josh McDaniels must be loving life right now, he gets to put out a whole bunch of formations, personnel groupings, and plays he’s never had the chance to utilise before with the Cam signing.

Newton isn’t a pocket passer, he never will be, he’s not accurate whatsoever. He was however amazing at extending plays outside the pocket and scrambling for a chunk of yards for the Carolina Panthers. The key to success for this team is if Cam can stay healthy for a whole season. Recent evidence suggests he may not.

Outside of the Quarterback position, one thing NE does have on offense is once again a loaded backfield. Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead have been sharing touches of the ball for a few years now and all three get a decent enough number of snaps to make an impact. The middle of the three is one of the league’s premier receiving backs, which compliments the ground and pound prototypes in Burkhead and Michel. Damien Harris, formerly of Alabama, has been making strides in training camp but is currently on the Injured Reserve list, so it will be down to rookie JJ Taylor to dislodge carries from those three.

The Patriots receiving core, sans Julian Edelman, is very meh. N’Keal Harry needs to have a prove-it year, after not living up to the hype as a rookie first-rounder last season. Jakobi Meyers impressed at training camp last year, but wouldn’t start for any other team in this league, the same could be said for Damiere Byrd.

Tight End is an unproven position group, with Ryan Izzo listed as the starter ahead of third-round picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. They do however once again have an outstanding o-line that should help elevate the offense.

Defense wise, it’s time for many of the Patriots’ fringe players to make a step up as they will be required a lot more. The likes of Chase Winovich, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Josh Uche will be part of a revamped front seven without Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and Jamie Collins. The middle two are now with the Dolphins and will suit up as defensive captains on Sunday. John Simon, Adam Butler, and Lawrence Guy will be tasked with stopping the run.

Stephon Gilmore is the best cornerback in the NFL, and alongside him probably has the best defensive backfield in the league. The McCourty brothers have been doing it in the league for a while now and are the leaders on this side of the ball whilst rookie Kyle Dugger was one of my favourite players to watch in college.

Don’t count out former All-Pro safety Adrian Philips either, he’s a great fit for this defense. Adding to that, Joejuan Williams, J.C. Jackson, and Jonothan Jones should also significant time on the field.

Last Time We Met – New England Patriots

It was a long time ago, but the last time the New England Patriots faced the Dolphins was the last regular-season game of the 2019 season at their home in Foxborough, Massachusetts. We romped away 27-24 winners in the end which put New England in a tricky situation.

The first quarter was fairly uneventful, with the Dolphins leading the Patriots 3-0 at the start of the second. That swiftly changed, as Tom Brady overthrew a swing route by Sony Michel, which was pounced on by Eric Rowe for a pick-six. After the extra point, 10-0.

Tom bounced back by launching a perfectly placed deep ball to Philip Dorsett for a gain of 40 yards which got New England down to inside the ten. Sony Michel finished the drive with a 4 yard TD run which put the game at 10-10 at the half, with a NE field goal coming in between.

Miami had a big gain coming out the second half due to an unusual screen between Albert Wilson and Patrick Laird which put the Fins in the redzone. Mike Gesicki and the 16 year vet, Fitzpatrick connected straight after to get to the goaline. Age is only a number when it comes to Fitz, as he went in for one of a few TD runs last season.

New England responded with a 35+ yard touchdown caught by linebacker Elandon Roberts coming out of the backfield. Miami added 3 to make it 20-17. A big kick return from former Dolphin Brandon Bolden put the Pats in good field position. That drive then got them in the end zone, through a James White reception. 20-24.

Ryan Fitzpatrick lead the Fins on a game winning drive that featured DeVante Parker chanelling his inner Randy Moss on a big gain up against Stephon Gilmore. Mike Gesicki then pulled in a touchdown pass from the 37 year old to win the game 27-24 after a Jason Sanders extra point.

Key Matchup and Our Dolphins Patriots Predictions

There are many candidates for the key matchup to look out for in this game. From the Dolphins revamped o-line against the Veteran Patriots D-line to the coaching face off. You could even throw in there Parker vs Gilmore II.

Of the three, I believe that establishing the run will be key to the Dolphins coming out on top in this game. The new Dolphins offensive line has to be much better because let’s face it you can’t get any worse. Ryan Fitzpatrick was the Dolphins’ leading rusher last year, and that simply cannot happen again. Let’s hope for a big day from Jordan Howard and Matt Breida.

Now for Our Dolphins Patriots Predictions

Shane – Dolphins 20-17. I think the Dolphins will heavily emphasize the run game, especially with the players the Patriots are missing

Gareth – I’m in 2 minds. It would be very Patriots like sign Newton and make it work but they are missing a few key Defenders. I think the Dolphins will win 24 – 20. Basic smash-mouth victory. Roberts will play a pivotal role. Return fixture I think the Patriots will be more like their usual selves and we’ll loose

Rich – A lot of people seem to think we’ll win, but it’s still the Patriots and Bellichick and Foxboro. So I think the Pats win 24-14

Jay – My heart’s saying we’ll win but my head is saying we still need to improve the run defense and I think Cam will expose that. However… I’m still saying we win 24-17

Me – All this praise of Cam Newton from Belichick is starting to concern me, but then again he could be trying to get his confidence up. Bill is trying to prove the world that it was his team, not Tom’s so will have the Patriots fighting. I think it will be close, within one or two scores. But Sadly, I expect New England to come out on top, 29-20.

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