After one week of the NFL season, the status quo of the AFC East is one that we’ve all come to know over the last 15 years.
It’s the Patriots, and then the rest of the division. And it was the Patriots – who started a backup quarterback without their best receiving weapon on the road against a Super Bowl contender – that ended up with the division’s only win last week.
This can’t be a surprise.
New England has won the division 13 out of the last 15 seasons, all under Bill Belichick – and it sure doesn’t feel like this year will be any different. In that time, the Jets have had five head coaches, the Bills eight, and this week’s opponent, the Dolphins - nine - as Adam Gase took over as head coach in the offseason.
Despite the Patriots continued dominance in the AFC East, however, they don’t usually take these games for granted. All the Patriots have to do is look at their last meeting against the Dolphins and have every reason to be prepared this time around.
In fact, it was last season’s loss to the Dolphins on Jan. 3 that played a huge part in them not securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and ultimately traveling to Denver where they’d lose in the AFC Championship Game. Against the Dolphins, New England only scored 10 points, Brady only threw the ball 21 times (and just five times in the first half), and the Dolphins scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for the win, 20-10.
Expect a more aggressive Patriots attack in this Sunday’s home opener.
Behind enemy lines
Bill Belichick was asked earlier this week how he’d assess the Dolphins offense. The first word that came to his mind was “explosive.” Taking a look at their roster, it’s easy to see why, and it starts with target monster Jarvis Landry. Whoever the Patriots decide to stick on Landry will be busy. The third-year wideout is fresh off a 110-catch season and had seven against a stingy Seahawks defense in Week 1. DeVante Parker didn’t play in Week 1, but he’s practicing and looks to be ready for the Patriots, giving the Dolphins even more speed. And watch out for running back Arian Foster, a nice signing for the Dolphins provided he can stay on the field. Every team had a chance to snag Foster, including the Patriots, but passed. Will he burn them?
Pour it on
If history is any indication of things, Patriots fans should be in for a treat on Sunday. Not just because the Patriots are 13-1 in home openers at Gillette Stadium, but because the Patriots haven’t lost to the Dolphins at home since the 2008 season. And during that time it’s been complete domination, with an average score of 32-12. Can we expect the same with Tom Brady banned from the premises? It would be a bit of a surprise to see Jimmy G hang 30-plus on the Fins, but then again, he looked pretty good in Arizona.
Battle in the trenches
We say it every season: All eyes on Ndamukong Suh. Suh, the serial stomper, is known around the league as a dirty player, and that certainly isn’t lost on any members of the Patriots. The O-line stood its ground last week but will have its hands full with Suh, Mario Williams, and Kiko Alonso to name a few. Speaking with reporters this week, Suh said the plan was to get Garoppolo “rattled.” After seeing what they were able to do to Russell Wilson (whom Suh also stepped on), the Pats must be ready.