When the New England Patriots open the 2022 NFL season on Sept. 11, they’ll encounter a recognizable enemy in the Miami Dolphins. But unlike their season openers against the AFC rival in 2020 and 2021, this time the Pats will be the team experts expect to lose.
It’ll be a familiar foe for the Pats, but in an unfamiliar position.
It’s the first time the Patriots haven’t been favored to win a season opener since 2016, when they beat the Arizona Cardinals as six-point road underdogs.
The tables have turned. In harmony with a general narrative that the Patriots will take a step back from last year’s 10-7 playoff season, Las Vegas oddsmakers have established New England as a 3-point underdog against Miami at Hard Rock Stadium.
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In 2020, the Patriots were favored by seven points before beating the Dolphins, 21-11. And in 2021 they were favored by 3.5 points at Gillette Stadium in a game they lost 17-16 on a costly fumble by running back Damien Harris at Miami’s 11-yard line with 3:35 remaining.
Playing in south Florida has always been a tricky proposition for the Pats, from Tom Brady admitting the Dolphins in Miami “always seemed to have my number” to the infamous double-lateral, 69-yard kick-return touchdown on the game’s final play in 2018. After a seven-game winning streak against Miami from 2010-13, New England is only 8-9 in its last 17 games against the Dolphins including losses in the last three games.
Despite finishing a game behind the Patriots in the standings last year and debuting rookie head coach Mike McDaniel against veteran Bill Belichick – who will coach his 28th NFL season opener – the Dolphins find themselves favored.
While the Patriots still boast a highly regarded set of safeties, their cornerbacks will be tested by McDaniel’s controlled passing offense led by former first-round quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (3-0 all-time against New England) and newly acquired All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill. A year ago the Pats had Pro Bowl-caliber cornerbacks JC Jackson and Stephon Gilmore. This year’s job of covering Hill and Jaylen Waddell could fall on cornerback Jalen Mills and perhaps fourth-round rookie Jack Jones.
Second-year Pats quarterback Mac Jones will be throwing to former Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker, who in two games against New England last season had six catches for 93 yards.
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