Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET
Just as the world was getting used to pandemic life, we were all thrown another curveball when the lengthy marriage between maybe the greatest quarterback of all-time and the only team he’s ever called home came to an abrupt end.
Yes, Tom Brady is no longer a Patriot, electing to travel south and become a Buccaneer. Enter stage right, Cam Newton — your newest New England QB1.
It was five years ago when the former Carolina Panther captured league MVP honors and nearly reeled in the franchise’s first-ever championship. He was pretty much on top of the world at that point.
As much as Newton loves imitating Superman for his end-zone celebrations, the reality was his skills were diminishing from there on out. He’s looked far, far more human in recent years, amassing only a pedestrian 82.6 passer rating in the four seasons since representing the NFC in the Big Game. During this same stretch, he’s also been merely a .500 quarterback.
So what to expect out of Newton as he begins life anew outside of Carolina? Well, that remains to be seen but one thing seems certain: There’s going to be growing pains as he attempts to transform back into what he was once upon a time.
This point is further solidified by the fact that there were no preseason games played this year. It’s a new and complicated system for Newton and one that may take weeks adjusting to. So, too, could becoming familiar with his new weapons — of which there aren’t many.
Oh yeah, sure, there’s still Julian Edelman, but beyond that, who from this ragtag group of supposed skill players is going to step up for their new quarterback? N’Keal Harry? Damiere Byrd? Matthew Slater?
The running-game situation is also muddled with uncertainty, ruled by a trio of Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead that can be likened to a game of Russian roulette. You just never really know who will receive the bulk of the work.
And on top of all that, this particular matchup involves evil mastermind Bill Belichick squaring off with one of his former cohorts, that being Dolphins second-year head coach Brian Flores. This is significant because Belichick is a very mortal 14-14 when facing one of his ex-assistants or players. The last such encounter saw Mike Vrabel deal a knockout blow to New England in the wild-card round in January.
Flores obviously has a feel for Belichick’s tendencies, which could considerably cap what Newton and Co. are able to pull off. Flores, of course, is a respected defensive mind himself. His squad did a nice job opposite scrambling quarterbacks a year ago, only allowing one QB (Josh Allen) to rack up more than 30 yards on the ground, so this is a challenge for Newton.
There figure to be plenty of obstacles for the other offense in this game as well. One, Miami is not a very talented group, as Ryan Fitzpatrick still somehow is lining up under center. The club did add Matt Breida, a very capable back, but you’re going to need more than that against this Pats D.
As a team, New England yielded the fewest points (14.1) and yards (275.9) per game last season. They were especially stingy against the pass, allowing a mere 5.4 yards per attempt, tying them for best in the league, as well. Considering the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore, paced this unit, that shouldn’t really be all that surprising.
Do the Dolphins have an offense that can strike the talented and accomplished Patriots defense for a crooked number? Not in their current state. Again, it’s Fitzpatrick at quarterback and to make matters more difficult, his top two wide-outs, DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, are both less than 100 percent.
So on one side, it’s a messy offense with an aging quarterback that probably shouldn’t have a starting job at this point. And on the other side, it’s, err, well, largely the same predicament. I rest my case.
The Play: UNDER 41.5 (-110)