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4 bold Patriots predictions for Week 1 vs. Dolphins

Patriots, Patriots Week 1 predictions, Patriots Dolphins, Patriots Week 1

Not only does Sunday kick off the 2021 NFL season for the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, but it also begins the Mac Jones era as the 23-year-old rookie QB makes his NFL debut at Gillette Stadium in an AFC East tilt. Let’s make some bold Patriots predictions for this Week 1 divisional battle against the Dolphins, which kicks off at 4:25 p.m. ET.

Miami and New England split the season series last year, as the home squad won both times. In last season’s regular-season opener, the Cam Newton-led Patriots defeated the visiting Dolphins, spearheaded by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The quarterback situation for both clubs looks a lot different, as the Patriots released Newton to hand over the franchise keys to Jones, the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Dolphins are now guided by second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who took over for Fitzpatrick last year after the latter started the first six games of the 2020 campaign. Fitzpatrick ultimately left Miami in the offseason, joining the Washington Football Team via free agency. Like Jones, Tagovailoa is also just 23 years young.

Patriots Week 1 predictions

1. Patriots hold Tua Tagovailoa to under 200 passing yards

In Tua Tagovailoa’s lone start against the Patriots last season, he completed 20-of-26 passes for 145 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in a 22-12 home victory. This time around, Tagovailoa has a tougher matchup against a revamped Patriots defense.

Not only did the Patriots sign star linebacker Matt Judon in free agency, they also welcome back Dont’a Hightower. Hightower, the 31-year-old linebacker who has spent his entire career in New England, opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns. Another familiar face rejoins the Patriots in Kyle Van Noy, who was released by the Dolphins after one season.

New Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, formerly of the Dolphins, should help the Patriots become one of the premier defensive squads in 2021.

This all spells trouble for Tagovailoa, who was less than stellar in his rookie campaign. To his credit, he took care of the football and had an underwhelming receiver corps. The Dolphins new they needed to give him more options in the passing attack. They added free agent wideout Will Fuller and rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle in the offseason. However, Fuller is suspended Week 1 and Waddle faces a difficult matchup in his debut.

With many factors going against Tagovailoa, look for the sophomore QB to throw less than 200 yards in what could be a long day for the former fifth overall pick.

2. Dolphins intercept Mac Jones at least once

Miami’s defense led the NFL in forced turnovers (29) in 2020. They accumulated an NFL-best 18 interceptions and forced 11 fumbles.

Facing off against Jones in his first professional game, the Dolphins should find a way to muster at least one interception. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could opt for a conservative game plan in Week 1 with the rookie Jones under center. The Patriots will likely be a run-first squad early on in 2021, even with Jones impressing all preseason.

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Jones looks like the real deal, but he will succumb to at least pick thrown against one of the league’s elite defensive teams.

3. Jonnu Smith scores TD in his New England debut

The Patriots didn’t just reload their defense via free agency. They also added pass catchers, particularly at the tight end position. The Patriots signed Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry with the intent to run a two-tight end scheme.

Last season, the Patriots ran 12-personnel (one running back/two tight ends) sets on just 2% of their plays. By inking Smith and Henry to multiyear contracts, head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick made it clear he wants to run more 12-personnel.

Smith is a more talented pass catcher than Henry and should receive more targets from Jones.

In his first contest with the Patriots, Smith will collect a touchdown reception.

4. Patriots (-3) cover spread, under (O/U 43.5) hits

The Patriots and Dolphins both project to be excellent defenses in 2021. In Week 1, both sides should limit their offensive counterparts. While the Dolphins were the better team last year on both sides of the ball, the Patriots are a deeper squad in 2021.

Miami will struggle to move the ball downfield against the new-look New England defense. The potential absence of starting left tackle Austin Jackson (COVID-19 list) could be a major blow to the Dolphins’ ability to slow down the Patriots’ improved pass rush.

On offense, the Patriots will lean heavily on running back Damien Harris, who should receive more goal-line carries with Cam Newton out of the picture. While the Patriots should face their share of troubles on offense versus Miami, they will manage to pull out a victory in a low-scoring affair.

The Patriots, who are favored by three points, defeat the Dolphins 20-13 with the total score hitting way under the 43.5-point projection set by the oddsmakers.