The Miami Dolphins will open the 2021 regular season exactly where they opened the 2020 season, at Gillette Stadium against the New England Patriots, though they'll be looking for a better outcome this time.
Here's all the pertinent info for this Week 1 Dolphins-Patriots matchup:
DATE: Sunday, Sept. 12
TIME: 4:25 p.m. ET
SITE: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
FORECAST (per AccuWeather): Partly sunny from 4-7 p.m. with temperatures of 78-81 degrees and winds of 13-15 mph
Announcers: Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Trent Green (color analyst), Melanie Collins (sideline)
Betting line: Patriots by 3 (over/under 43.5)
Dolphins — WR Preston Williams (foot) is questionable
Patriots — WR Malcolm Perry (foot) is out; WR Nelson Agholor (ankle), T Yodny Cajuste (hamstring), DB Jalen Mills (ankle) and LB Ronnie Perkins (shoulder) are questionable
Regular season series history: Dolphins lead 57-54
Last five meetings:
Dec. 20, 2020 at Miami; Dolphins 22, Patriots 12
Sept. 13, 2020 at New England; Patriots 21, Dolphins 11
Dec. 29, 2019 at New England; Dolphins 27, Patriots 24
Sept. 15, 2019 at Miami; Patriots 43, Dolphins 0
Dec. 9, 2018 at Miami; Dolphins 34, Patriots 33
Dolphins' largest margin of victory: 52 (1972 at Miami; Dolphins 52, Patriots 0
Patriots' largest margin of victory: 43 (2019 at Miami; Patriots 43, Dolphins 0)
Highest-scoring matchup: 74 points (1994 at Miami; Dolphins 39, Patriots 35)
Lowest-scoring matchup: 3 points (1982 at New England; Patriots 3, Dolphins 0)
Series highlights: The Dolphins are opening against the Patriots for the ninth time, with the teams splitting the first eight such meetings. ... The Dolphins have won once at Gillette Stadium since 2008, defeating the Patriots 27-24 in the 2019 season finale. ... The teams have split the season series seven times in the past eight years.
Former Patriots players with the Dolphins:
CB Eric Rowe (2016-18), CB Justin Coleman (2015-16), DB Jason McCourty (2018-20), LB Elandon Roberts (2016-19), DL Adam Butler (2017-20), QB Jacoby Brissett (2016)
Former Patriots coaches with the Dolphins:
Head coach Brian Flores, defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, co-offensive coordinator tight ends coach George Godsey, assistant tight ends coach Mike Judge
Former Dolphins players with the Patriots:
RB Brandon Bolden (2018), LB Kyle Van Noy (2020), C Ted Karras (2020), DT Davon Godchaux (2017-20), WR Malcolm Perry (2020)
Dolphins GM Chris Grier worked for the Patriots from 1994-99, first as a scouting intern and then as a regional scout ... Dolphins DB Jason McCourty and Patriots DB Devin McCourty are twin brothers ... Each teams has three former starters at the University of Alabama, including Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa and Patriots QB Mac Jones ... Dolphins LB Anthony Campanile coached Patriots linebackers Josh Uche and Cameron McGrone when he was at the University of Michigan.
1974 — Patriots 34, Dolphins 24
1987 — Patriots 28, Dolphins 21
1990 — Dolphins 27, Patriots 24
1994 — Dolphins 39, Patriots 35
1996 — Dolphins 24, Patriots 10
2011 — Patriots 38, Dolphins 24
2014 — Dolphins 33, Patriots 20
2020 — Patriots 21, Dolphins 11
The Patriots head into the 2021 season with major changes after an offseason spending spree and most importantly a dramatic change at quarterback with rookie first-round pick Mac Jones beating out veteran Cam Newton for the starting job. While there's a lot of optimism with Miami fans about what's in store for Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the same can be said for the hopes and expectations for Jones in New England. But Jones isn't the biggest reason many observers are expecting the Patriots to rebound after their first losing season in two decades. Rather, it's about the team New England has put together around Jones, with the offensive line, running back and linebacker groups looking particularly impressive heading into 2021.
THE BIGGEST REASON THE DOLPHINS WILL WIN ...
This should be pretty obvious after what the Dolphins did to Justin Herbert at Hard Rock Stadium last season, which was to confuse him to such an extent they rendered him ineffective. What the Dolphins did so well that day was disguise what they were doing in terms of how many defenders were coming after Herbert on every passing play. It's the same thing the Dolphins are likely to do to Jones, though this can only work if the Dolphins contain the New England running game.
THE BIGGEST REASON THE DOLPHINS WILL LOSE ...
The concern here is that stopping the run just won't be that easy. Some will point to New England's 117 rushing yards in the December rematch last year after the Patriots rushed for 217 in the opener, but understand that they rushed 42 times in the opener last year and 22 times in the second game and the per-carry average actually was better in December. The reason the Pats had so many fewer carries in the rematch was that the Dolphins had the ball pretty much the whole game while rushing for 250 yards. It's hard to see a repeat of that, and since Josh McDaniels is likely to want to protect Jones, expect a heavy dose of the New England running game. If the Dolphins can't control better than it did in either game last year (5.2 and 5.3 yards per carry averages), it's not going to end well for the Dolphins.
FINAL DOLPHINS-PATRIOTS PREDICTION
Let's start by saying we ended the 2020 season with the same prediction record as the Dolphins' record on the field, which was 10-6. But we did correctly predict the season opener at Gillette Stadium, though we missed on the rematch. All that said, understand that predicting always is tricky business (if any writer knew the outcome for sure, we'd all be betting heavily on those games) and it's much more difficult in the season opener because there are still so many unknowns with every team around the league. Based on all logic, though, there is zero reason to think this will be a high-scoring game and every reason to think it'll be a tight game. It's great to look back at that December game for the Dolphins, but we also need to understand it was an aberration because the 250 rushing yards was 112 more than they had in any other game. And this New England defense should be much better. Look, there's a reason so many are expecting the Patriots to be back in the playoffs in 2021 and a Dolphins win here would be a massive statement, whereas a loss should not bring a gloom-and-doom outlook. But this is a really tough matchup to start for the Dolphins, and we're going to predict it's not going to end with a positive outcome. Patriots 16, Dolphins 13.