(CBS Miami) — The New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East for 20 years, successful the division 11 straight seasons. Throughout that stretch, the Miami Dolphins posted a .500 or higher document simply 3 times. They final gained the division in 2008.
However this season is already shaping as much as be very totally different for a lot of causes, largely associated to the present COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL Draft was distant. In-person low season actions have been scaled approach again. And preseason was canceled outright. All of this can have an effect on groups’ skill to coalesce on the sector and gauge their early-season opponents.
One more reason is the potential shift within the steadiness of energy within the AFC East. In New England, Tom Brady is now not the Pats’ quarterback, having signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In Miami, the Dolphins welcome a bunch of high quality new gamers, each from the NFL Draft and from free company. (The Buffalo Payments and New York Jets also needs to present enchancment, though how a lot stays unclear.)
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The Patriots and Dolphins sq. off in Foxboro to open the season. Week 1 would be the first time we get to see a Patriots crew led by Cam Newton. Newton was the NFL’s MVP in 2015, the season he led the Carolina Panthers to the Tremendous Bowl. He brings a brand new ability set that the Patriots’ offense hasn’t seen in a while. And it stands to purpose that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will have the ability to open up the playbook a little bit extra.
Sony Michel ought to cleared the path this week in what needs to be a powerful working recreation, with Damien Harris harm. Rex Burkhead will get his justifiable share of touches as effectively, and James White stays a receiving risk out of the backfield. Newton can even take pleasure in the sure-handed Julian Edelman over the center on passing downs. The large unknown is how a lot recreation motion it takes to get the Newton in sync with the remainder of the Patriots’ offense.
The Patriots protection was one of many NFL’s greatest final season, giving up a league-low 4,414 yards. The sturdy stats belie the truth that groups just like the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas Metropolis Chiefs and Houston Texans have been in a position to push them round. And now the unit is ready to be worse, having misplaced Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton within the low season. The defensive backfield stays sturdy, however they could wrestle too with out sufficient assist in entrance of them.
The Dolphins, then again, are a crew on the rise. Boosted by sturdy hauls within the NFL Draft and free company, this crew is ready to be a lot improved. The one query is when.
“The one factor I take into consideration the Dolphins is that they have an opportunity to make a extremely large leap,” says CBS Sports activities lead NFL analyst Tony Romo. “They’re in all probability going to be a yr approach from making the leap to presumably with the ability to contend for a championship. After I say that, groups have carried out it earlier than. While you get six picks within the high 70, and what they’ve carried out in free company… I believe every part that the Dolphins have carried out, with out evaluating the expertise they’ve drafted within the draft… To me, you must get offensive linemen, and you’ve got to have the ability to cowl. And if you may get your defensive position to play exhausting.”
The Dolphins added their quarterback of the longer term, Tua Tagovailoa as considered one of their three first-round picks. He’ll be studying from the sidelines to start out the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick underneath heart. However fellow first-rounders offensive deal with Austin Jackson and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene ought to contribute instantly.
The crew was additionally lively in free company, notably serving to themselves on protection. Byron Jones provides them a shutdown nook. Defensive finish Shaq Lawson comes over from the Buffalo Payments to spice up their rush off the sting. And Kyle Van Noy provides them a strong all-purpose linebacker.
Groups with some continuity by way of teaching and gamers could have the benefit early within the season. The Patriots stay underneath Invoice Belichick’s management, and the Dolphins underneath Brian Flores’. However the addition (and subtraction) of key personnel will might harm each of those groups early on. Each will want time to come back collectively, having not benefited from a preseason.
This Sunday will begin to get a way of the way it will all shake out. In keeping with SportsLine‘s Wizard Of Odds Kenny White, these groups are “very evenly matched. The Dolphins-Patriots recreation opened with the Patriots minus seven. There are nonetheless sevens out available in the market, however there are 6 1/2s as effectively. So with a 50-50 break up in tickets, it seems to be just like the professionals are leaning a little bit bit to the Dolphins Week 1 at plus seven.”
The Dolphins play the Patriots Sunday, September 13 @1:00 pm ET on CBS.