5 reasons the Dolphins will beat the Patriots in Week 1

·6 min read

The wait is over, and football is finally here, as the Miami Dolphins will face off against their rivals, the New England Patriots, in the 2022 season opener at Hard Rock Stadium.

With a new coach in Mike McDaniel, along with a plethora of key additions, including Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead and Chase Edmonds to name a few, expectations are at an all-time high for this franchise.

Having not won a playoff game since the 2001 season, the Dolphins and their fanbase have been clamoring for success for two decades. Through ups and downs, the time is here to stop the projections, forget about the past and focus on the immediate future.

That immediate future is a Week 1 matchup with the Patriots.

The Dolphins have had the Patriots’ number lately and are looking for their fourth straight victory against them. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is 3-0 against Bill Belichick’s team, and it’s obvious that he’s a major key to success in Sunday’s opener. Tagovailoa, who has been one of the league’s most polarizing quarterbacks this offseason, has a chance to silence critics and get the better of his former Alabama teammate, Mac Jones.

Here are five reasons that the Dolphins will beat the Patriots in Week 1.

Pass rushers will pressure Jones from all angles

Last season, Miami was fifth in the NFL with 48 sacks. Although the Dolphins had a rough first half of 2021, it was Week 9 when the tide turned. A matchup with the Houston Texans started a seven-game win streak on the strength of a defensive unit who started blitzing a lot more than they did in that forgettable seven-game losing streak.

The Dolphins will have pass-rushers Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips and newly acquired veteran Melvin Ingram rushing Jones, while Andrew Van Ginkel was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Although listed as such due to an emergency appendectomy just a few weeks back, Van Ginkel has a chance to play and be in the pass-rush rotation for the front seven.

Additionally, Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones have a propensity for blitzing. Jones even led the NFL last season in sacks by a defensive back.

Expect pressure from defensive coordinator Josh Boyer throughout the game, as this defense could be lethal when rushing and hurrying the quarterback, especially with ballhawk Xavien Howard lurking in the secondary.

The pass rush will set up interceptions

The Dolphins have perhaps the league’s best in the business at intercepting passes in Howard. Since 2016, no player has had more interceptions than his 27. Howard had five interceptions last season and a league-leading 10 in 2020. Expect him to put any Patriot he covers on an island of loneliness Sunday, as New England’s corps is not a strong group.

Usually, opposite Howard is Byron Jones, yet he’s starting the season on the PUP list. Replacing him on the boundary is Nik Needham, who while a natural outside corner, played mostly in the slot in 2021. Needham was one of the league’s top slot corners and didn’t allow a touchdown from that position all season.

In Jones’ absence, Needham will revert to the position that got him on this team as an undrafted free agent back in 2019. With Howard, Needham, Holland and Jones in the defensive backfield, mixed with heavy pressure from the group up front, Miami could end up with multiple interceptions.

Jason Sanders will return to 2020 form

In 2020, kicker Jason Sanders not only broke Dolphins records, but he was also arguably the league’s best kicker not named Justin Tucker. Sanders hit 92.3% of his attempts two seasons ago and was 8-9 from 50-plus yards. He even hit 22 straight field goals for the Dolphins, a franchise record. He was also a perfect 36-36 on point after attempts in 2020.

In 2021 Sanders’ field-goal percentage dropped to 74.2%, going just 2-6 from 50-plus yards. He also missed one extra point try.

These numbers begged the question: What’s wrong?

The answer is potentially the holder. Now, that job falls to veteran punter Thomas Morstead. Morstead seems to have gelled with Sanders and figured out what his preferences and comforts are in the hold of the ball. We all saw this preseason how deadly accurate Sanders could be, and Morstead could easily be a reason why Sanders could revert back to his 2020 form.

Look for the kicking game to put points on the board when needed, and field goals from even 55-plus yards could be key heading into a half or to put the game on ice. Of course, it’s the goal of any offense to not rely on field goals, but in a pinch, Sanders could be virtually automatic again.

The running game could work this year

Coach McDaniel comes in as an offensive guru and run-game specialist. His blocking schemes and creativity should help new runners Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert keep the chains moving and leave the Dolphins’ defense off the field.

In the sweltering heat of Miami in September, dominating the time of possession and extending drives will be a major key to this game. Helping in that regard is a pair of new offensive linemen in left tackle Armstead and left-guard-turned-center Connor Williams.

Joining Edmonds and Mostert will be Myles Gaskin, who could contribute on third downs and with pass-catching duties out of the backfield. Salvon Ahmed is questionable, but the top three backs in Miami should look to combine for 30-plus carries in a perfect world for the Dolphins.

Look for creative ways that McDaniel will call run plays, even with nuances of certain types of tosses and hand-offs that could leave the defense guessing just a bit more than normal. The success of the run game could lead to play-action potential, and that will set up perfectly as the main reason why the Dolphins will get the better of the Patriots on Sunday.

Tua to Tyreek and company

Miami’s newest toy is primed to be the big-play threat that the Dolphins have been needing since the days of Brandon Marshall and even further with Ricky Williams.

Hill is a bonafide superstar in the league and the perfect person to pair with Tagovailoa. His incendiary speed is perfect for Tagovailoa and his ability to get the ball out quickly and accurately.

Hill can gain heavy yards after the catch, and these are plays that will make any quarterback’s life easier. Tagovailoa will have Hill along with second-year star Jaylen Waddle and free agent slot receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. at his disposal. Add in tight end Mike Gesicki, and Tagovailoa all of a sudden has an embarrassment of offensive riches.

Hill brings fear to this offense, as he must always be accounted for on the field. This will undoubtedly lead to opportunities for Miami’s complementary targets.

The former Kansas City Chief is also a Week 1 monster in his six-year career so far. Hill has averaged 95 yards per contest and has totaled six touchdowns during opening weekend in his career – a career that’s seen him earn Pro Bowl honors in each of his professional seasons.

Story originally appeared on Dolphins Wire