Patriots vs. Dolphins preview: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

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Finally, a game.

After a long offseason and no joint practices or preseason games, the Patriots will host the Dolphins Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in the season opener. It will be the debut of Cam Newton and the first Patriots game without Tom Brady on the roster in 20 years.

There are a number of questions that will get answered in the contest since so much is unknown given the lack of preseason games.

It also should be a tough test as Miami is better than many think and it beat the Patriots the last time the two teams met — Week 17 in Foxborough last season, which forced the Patriots into playing on Wild Card Weekend.

Dolphins vs. Patriots
Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020
1:00 p.m., CBS
Patriots -7, over/under 43

3 keys to the game

Get Cam Newton going

Since Newton just joined the Patriots in early July, he’s still learning the entire Patriots, so it will be important to make him comfortable and build his confidence. If he can get going early, it could lead to him feeling more confident and that typically is when he’s at his best. It will be worth watching how many running plays are called for him, as that could be another way to get him feeling good and then potentially open up the passing game.

Rely on running game

In order for the Patriots offense to have some success, it likely will need to be led by the running game. With Gunner Olszewski out, the team has only Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers at wide receiver. This means Sony Michel and Co. will need to have solid games on the ground. After a disappointing 2019 season, the offensive line should be motivated to bounce back and make big roles for Michel, Rex Burkhead and even James White to run though.

Keep DeVante Parker in check

Parker is Miami’s biggest offensive threat and he’s coming off a eight-catch, 137-yard performance in Week 17 last season against New England. He got the best of Stephon Gilmore in the game, particularly on Miami’s game-winning touchdown drive at the end of the game. Gilmore likely will have some extra motivation to shut Parker down and if that can happen, the Patriots defense should be in relatively good shape.

Fun Facts

1. Newton has thrown for more than 200 yards in Week 1 just twice in his last seven season openers.

2. The Patriots have the third-most Kickoff Weekend wins in the AFC (34) and have won nine of their last 10 home openers on Kickoff Weekend.

3. With one touchdown reception, Edelman will tie Wes Welker for 37 career touchdowns, good for sixth-most in team history.

4. In the regular season, the Patriots are 100-1 all-time at Gillette Stadium when leading at halftime.

5. The Patriots are 51-1 since the 2000 regular season when a player rushes for at least 100 yards.

Prediction

Patriots 24, Dolphins 21

This game will be closer than many expect, but the Patriots are the more talented team and we expect them to find a way to get it done. They just have more talented players than Miami does and it’s hard to imagine the Patriots, even without Brady, to lose back-to-back games to the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Also, don’t be surprised to see special teams have a major impact on the game.