The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots met in Week 1 of last season in Foxborough, and they'll once again take the field to kick off the 2022 campaign, only this time in South Florida.
Both the Patriots and Dolphins will look to build on some momentum from the end of last season, a rare sign for these two teams. New England finished 10-7 in 2021 with Miami just a game behind at 9-8, marking the first time since 2016 that both teams finished with a winning record. What happened the following year? The Patriots went 13-3, clinched the top seed in the AFC, and reached the Super Bowl for the second time in as many seasons; the Dolphins finished 6-10 and missed the playoffs.
Miami hopes that it can bring in some positive energy on the shoulders of new head coach Mike McDaniel, who joins the team after five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, four as the 49ers' run game coordinator before moving up to offensive coordinator in 2021. It'll be more of the same on the opposing sideline for New England as Bill Belichick begins his 23rd season at the helm of the Patriots.
Miami has won its last three meetings and four of its last five against New England. The Dolphins haven't enjoyed this type of success against the Patriots since winning five in a row between 1999 and 2001. At home, Miami has four of the last five and seven of the last nine meetings with its AFC East rivals.
New England (0-0) at Miami (0-0)
Three Things to Watch
1. How does Tyreek Hill blend with Jaylen Waddle and the rest of Miami's offense?
Hill finished third in the NFL in receptions (111) and seventh in yards (1,239) in 2021. Now, it remains to be seen how he'll translate that level of production to his new team after he spent the first six seasons of his career (2016-21) with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Waddle wasn't too far behind Hill on the league rankings, eclipsing the century mark in receptions en route to a 104-catch, 1,015-yard season in 2021 to finish eighth in receptions and 25th in yards. That dynamic 1-2 combination of playmakers in the passing game will be a big boost for Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins' offense, which finished in the bottom third of the league in both total yards and points in 2021.
Miami also finished with the third-worst rushing average per game last season, so while Hill may be able to contribute in the run game as well, his presence downfield may open up some holes for Myles Gaskin, Raheem Mostert, and the Dolphins' run game.
2. Will the Patriots' defense pick up where it left off last season?
New England finished the 2021 season allowing the second-fewest points (17.8) and second-fewest passing yards (187.1) of any team in the league in 2021. Part of that can be attributed to their 30 takeaways, tied for the third-highest total in the NFL. In fact, the Patriots were one of just four teams to have more interceptions (23) than passing touchdowns allowed (21), joining the Rams, Cowboys and Bills.
That pace would be especially helpful considering the Patriots notched a 6-3 record on the road (playoffs included) last season while going 4-5 at Gillette Stadium. New England opens the 2022 season with three of its first four games coming away from home, so its defense's ability to keep opponents in check while away from Foxborough would be critical to helping the team start the season off right.
3. Can the Dolphins make good on the spread?
If that spread looked a bit shocking, you wouldn't be mistaken. The Dolphins enter as the favorite against the Patriots for the first time since December 2013, which — barring a drastic shift in the line leading up to kickoff — would end a streak of 16 consecutive games between these two teams in which Miami entered as the underdog against New England. That streak, incidentally enough, began with a season opener in Miami when the Dolphins entered as 5.5-point home underdogs but outscored the Patriots 23-0 in the second half to open the season with a 33-20 win.
That's hardly the only streak at stake this weekend. Miami has won its last three meetings with New England, its longest stretch of consecutive wins against the Patriots since winning five in a row between 1999 and 2001. In fact, the Dolphins' wins in both games last season marked the first season sweep of their matchup with the Patriots since 2000.
The Dolphins are in fairly unfamiliar waters thanks to their individual matchup streaks in tandem with their momentum entering the season. A Week 1 matchup with the Patriots, though, will be a healthy barometer for their progress going into 2022 while New England looks to right the ship in its matchup with Miami.
Prediction: Dolphins 27, Patriots 24
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.
*Price as of publication.