Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa #1. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images/AFP
The AFC East will kick off an intriguing 2021 season when the Dolphins pay a visit to the Patriots in what promises to be one of the closest games of Week 1.
Two young quarterbacks will take the field on either side, with Mac Jones winning out the starting job in New England over Cam Newton and Tua Tagovailoa getting ready to play his first full season for the Dolphins.
Is there a edge in this matchup? Do we really trust Tagovailoa enough to lay three points after last year? Jones will be overcome by nerves in his first career start. Let’s take a look at the NFL odds and find our pick.
Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots
Sunday, September 12, 2021 – 04:25 PM EDT at Gillette Stadium
It is indeed Tua’s team, and Tua’s time now in Miami. The 2020 first-round pick will have a lot to prove in his second year as a pro and his first full year as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback after an offseason filled with trade rumors.
While it seemed the Dolphins were distracted by other big names and big talents like Deshaun Watson this summer, they’ll now have to put all their faith behind the Alabama product.
All Tagovailoa did last year was throw for 1,814 yards in 10 games, completing 64.1% of passes with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. While nothing really went too wrong for Tua, he was eventually benched for a game in late November after throwing for just 83 yards in Denver.
It’s just as easy to say nothing went too right, either, with just two 300-yard games. One came against Kansas City, which rates as a below-average pass defense, and the other was in Week 17 against Buffalo, where he threw for 361 yards against a team resting starters and threw three picks to boot.
Tagovailoa is a complicated guy to figure out, and the Dolphins will do their best to get a full look at him in 2021.
Will Fuller will throw to him, but he will be serving a suspension for using banned substances to start the year. Jaylen Waddle, the first round pick, will catch the ball.
Finally, we need to at least briefly talk about the Dolphins’ defense, which was 9th in weighted defensive DVOA last year — and sixth against the pass. Brian Flores built a tremendous unit.
Mac Jones during the NFL Draft in Cleveland, Ohio on April 29, 2021. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP
A New Look
Just about everything about this Patriots team is brand new, with the exception of the head coach. A team that infamously ignores the skill positions went out and got not one but two pass-catching tight ends in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, then added Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne at receiver.
That is all well and good, but the biggest news was definitely New England finally moving on from Tom Brady and drafting a quarterback in the first round in Alabama product Mac Jones.
Running back is another important story, but it has been largely overlooked. We know Bill Belichick has never liked to give the role to just one man, but it appears Damien Harris is in line for a boatload of carries.
Harris rated out as the No. 2 running back last year according to Pro Football Focus and No. 3 in strictly the rushing department, and now with Sony Michel gone he’ll be able to take full command of the role. We’ll get to why that’s a big deal in a second.
The Patriots also added back Kyle Van Noy from these very Dolphins in an effort to shore up a defense that ranked 23rd in weighted DVOA a year ago, and they also brought in names like Henry Anderson, Matthew Judon and Jalen Mills.
Belichick has always had a strong defense, but this should really be a step back in the right direction.
The Dolphins were very bad against the rush last year at 22nd in DVOA, and while some new players are joining this defense, the strength of it will still be rushing the passer.
With a rookie under center for New England, it was going to run the ball a lot anyway, but that should be especially true with this matchup.
I’m rather bullish on the Pats defense as well and think it should get off to a good start against Tagovailoa, who didn’t show much promise in his first year in the NFL. The combination of two slow offenses without much firepower should lead to a Week 1 under, so I’ll take it for my NFL pick here.
NFL Pick: Under 43.5 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.
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