We get an AFC East matchup in prime time for the second straight week, as the Miami Dolphins travel to New England to take on the Patriots. Miami was one of the main highlights from Week 1, as the Dolphins got the best of the Los Angeles Chargers in a shootout, 36-34. As for the Patriots, they fell to the reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, 25-20.
The Dolphins lead the all-time series with the Patriots 60-55 (including postseason), and Miami has won four out of the last five matchups. This is the first Sunday night game between these two teams since 1991, when the Dolphins defeated the Patriots 30-20 in Joe Robbie Stadium while Dan Marino threw three touchdowns.
New England is looking to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2001 this weekend. Before we break down the matchup, here's a look at how you can watch the game.
How to watch
- Dolphins: OT Terron Armstead (back, ankle, knee), DB Elijah Campbell (knee), TE Julian Hill (ankle), LB Jaelan Phillips (back) QUESTIONABLE
- Patriots: OT Trent Brown (concussion), CB Jonathan Jones (ankle), OL Mike Onwenu (ankle), WR DeVante Parker (knee), OL Sidy Sow (concussion), G Cole Strange (knee) QUESTIONABLE
Dolphins fans are surely happy to see that running back Raheem Mostert (knee) and wideout Jaylen Waddle (oblique) will play after being on the injury report earlier in the week. Each of Miami's four questionable players were limited on Thursday, with Phillips not showing up on the injury report until Friday.
For the Patriots, Brown, Sow and Jones did not practice on Friday. Onwenu, Parker and Strange were limited for a third consecutive day. A former Dolphin, Parker was inactive for the Patriots' season-opening loss to the Eagles.
When the Dolphins have the ball
Mike McDaniel's offense led the league in yards (536), yards per play (8.2) and 25+ yard plays (6) in Week 1, while quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. However, the headline, of course, was Tyreek Hill.
Hill accounted for almost half of Tua's yards, as he caught 11 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns. He had four receptions 20-plus yards downfield in Week 1, which was more than any other team in the league. The rest of the AFC East had one combined, while the rest of the NFL had 29 such plays. Hill by himself was responsible for 12% of the NFL's deep balls caught in Week 1. Hill said he's still going to " " if he faces a couple of double teams in New England, but keep in mind that the Patriots have been effective in limiting those downfield passing plays. Since Hill entered the league, the Patriots have allowed the lowest completion percentage on passes 20+ yards downfield (29%).
|Hill's last 5 games vs. NE|
Receptions per game
Receiving yards per game
Yards per reception
(Check out Jared Dubin's thorough preview on Bill Belichick vs. Tua and Tyreek,)
However, Hill is just one player. The Dolphins also have the speedy Jaylen Waddle out wide. He was targeted just five times last Sunday, but turned those five targets into four receptions for 78 yards. He's arguably already a top 10 wide receiver in the NFL, and ranked No. 9 in receiving yards per game last year (79.8), and led the entire league in yards per reception (18.1) despite his starting quarterback missing four games. Waddle also has three receiving touchdowns in four career games vs. the Patriots.
Miami's passing game was on fire last Sunday, but the run game was not. Raheem Mostert and Salvon Ahmed combined for 48 rushing yards on 13 carries. Despite McDaniel's background as a run-game coordinator, the Dolphins have not been strong on the ground since his arrival. Last year, Miami had the eighth-worst run offense in the NFL. After one week, the Dolphins rank sixth-worst on the ground. McDaniel didn't commit to making rookie De'Von Achane active this week despite all of the hype he garnered in the preseason. Fans are eagerly awaiting his NFL debut, and it will be interesting to see how he could change the offense. New England held Philadelphia's running backs to under 4 yards per carry collectively in Week 1. Still, I expect McDaniel to strive for some balance in his offensive attack Sunday night.
We know the Chargers aren't a formidable defensive team, and Miami faced just nine third downs despite racking up 30 first downs. The Dolphins converted four of those nine third downs, so how Miami fares in keeping drives alive is yet another storyline to keep tabs on.
When the Patriots have the ball
The first item on New England's offensive agenda will be to avoid the start it had vs. Philadelphia. The Patriots' drive chart to begin the game went like this: Pick six, fumble, three-and-out, three-and-out and then another three-and-out. It got better later in the second quarter, as Mac Jones led two touchdown drives to cut the deficit to two points by the halftime break.
While New England did lose its season opener, offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien's impact was felt immediately. The 24 first downs New England recorded were more than any game in 2022, and Jones threw for 316 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Previously, Jones had never thrown for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns. He threw the ball more than any other quarterback in the NFL in Week 1, so could we see another pass-heavy attack in Week 2? Miami did allow 233 rushing yards to the Chargers, but New England on the other hand struggled to run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and Rhamondre Stevenson. Putting together long drives and keeping Miami's offense off the field while simultaneously giving your defense rest will be important. New England went 3 of 5 in the red zone, and 5 of 15 on third downs. Those numbers will be important this week.
You don't want to make any definitive statements about a team or an offense after one week, but Kendrick Bourne may be Jones' No. 1 wideout. He led the team with six catches on 11 targets, 64 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Jones looked his way more than any other wideout, and the two clearly have some chemistry. O'Brien will likely look to build off of that. Just three wide receivers caught passes last Sunday, but DeVante Parker was not in the lineup. The former Dolphin is questionable to play this week due to a knee injury, but having him in the fold would certainly boost this attack. Per CBS Sports Research, 76.1% of his catches have gone for a first down or touchdown in the previous two seasons, which ranks second-most in the NFL.
Sunday night for New England will be more about containing Miami's explosive offense, but you have to score points to win. Miami's defense is clearly not its strong suit, as it gave up 433 yards of offense last week vs. the Chargers. That ranked second-worst in the NFL, just ahead of ... the Chargers. Last year, Miami ranked No. 24 in scoring defense, tied for No. 30 in takeaways and No. 27 in pass defense. Mr. O'Brien, here's your chance to stand out on a national stage.
Despite Tagovailoa having a 4-0 record vs. Belichick, these two teams have split the last four matchups in New England. It's hard not to lean toward the more potent offense early on, especially with the spread being as low as it is. Maybe Hill doesn't go for 200-plus yards again, but Miami should outscore New England.
Score: Dolphins 27, Patriots 23
I like my pick for this game, but you might like Emory Hunt's better. He's an NFL expert over at SportsLine.com and he's been on roll with his Patriots predictions, going 17-4 on his last 21 picks. If you want to check out Hunt's pick, you can do that here.