Saturday, September 6, 2014

Matchup Mashup: Your Patriots-Dolphins primer


Week 1: New England Patriots (0-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-0)
Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.
Weather: High 80s and humid at kickoff, 35 percent chance of thunderstorms (accuweather)

The skinny: The Patriots have won 10 of the last 11 division titles, and their campaign to extend that trend of success starts with a season-opening road trip south to take on the rival Miami Dolphins. Both teams are a bit of an unknown on offense. The Dolphins hope new coordinator Bill Lazor's up-tempo style counters a bolstered Patriots defense, while Tom Brady heads into the opener on the heels of the departure of his best offensive lineman and with an intriguing wideout corps situation.

What to watch for (links):
- How will the Patriots' group of blockers handle the Dolphins' versatile group of rushers?
- What kind of impact will first round rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley have in his first NFL appearance?
- How does the Darrelle Revis-Mike Wallace bout pan out?
- Can Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill get on track to correcting his deep ball issues?
- Will Knowshon Moreno make as much noise as Bill Belichick expects?
- How does the Patriots' defense handle Dolphins tight end Charles Clay?

Injury report: Linebacker Philip Wheeler joins three other Dolphins officially listed as out for Sunday's matchup, with Mike Pouncey the obvious absentee for at least the next few weeks. A pair of defensive role players will sit for New England with bum ankles, while Brady and Gronkowski fly into Florida listed as questionable.

Other tidbits from the week:
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley is cautiously optimistic for this season following two years of fumbling woes; Mike Wallace is excited for his impending matchup with All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis.

Our picks:
Sean: Patriots 31, Dolphins 17
Nick: Patriots 30, Dolphins 20
Dan: Patriots 28, Dolphins 17

Head-to-head recent history:
Miami won the most recent matchup between the two divisional rivals back in December, but New England had won seven straight games prior to that 24-20 loss. The Dolphins still, however, hold a five-game lead in overall wins, with Sunday's game marking the 98th time the two teams have met.  

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