The 2020 NFL season will be different for all 32 teams, but arguably none more so than the Patriots.
This campaign will mark New England’s first without Tom Brady since 1999. The future Hall of Fame quarterback joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and free agency and was replaced in Foxboro by Cam Newton, who was released by the Panthers after nine seasons in Carolina.
Newton will make his Patriots debut Sunday when New England hosts the Miami Dolphins, who will be looking to produce the same result as the AFC East division rivals’ last meeting.
Here’s our pick for Sunday afternoon’s game, with the line provided by consensus data.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-6.5)
The Dolphins’ active offseason should inspire optimism in South Beach. Miami retooled its defense in free agency by adding a pair of ex-Patriot linebackers, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts, as well as star cornerback Byron Jones. Miami also drafted its potential next franchise quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, back in April.
Tagovailoa will have to wait for his NFL debut, however, as it will be Ryan Fitzpatrick serving as the Fins’ starting signal-caller to begin the season. Fitzpatrick was awfully impressive in his last game against the Patriots, highlighted by a stellar drive late in the fourth quarter in which he thrashed New England’s stout defense. That included successfully going after reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore.
As for the Patriots, they’ll look quite different on both sides of the ball. In addition to Newton, New England will trot out a new starting right tackle as well as an altered front seven, with young and inexperienced players replacing veterans lost to free agency and opt-outs.
This game figures to be close. Neither side is expected to be an offensive juggernaut, at least in Week 1, and the Patriots’ defense might not be as strong as fans and media members alike are projecting it to be. Bill Belichick and Co. typically come out victorious in tight contests, especially at home, but laying the points might be too talk of a task for the new-look Pats.
Pick: Dolphins +6.5
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images