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Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: Key players, top storylines, odds and prediction

Fresh off a brilliant offensive showing in Week 1, the Miami Dolphins will visit the division-rival New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

Tua Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns in a narrow Week 1 win over the Las Angeles Chargers. Though, Miami’s defense left a lot to be desired in that one.

As for the Patriots, they lost in narrow fashion at home to the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles. Two costly first-quarter turnovers doomed Bill Belichick’s squad in that one.

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Below, we preview this primetime game by looking at key players to watch, top storylines and a final prediction.

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: Kickoff time, TV information and odds

NFL: Detroit Lions at New England Patriots
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
  • Date: September 17, 2023
  • Time: 8:20 PM ET
  • Television: NBC
  • Point spread: Dolphins (-3.0)

Top Miami Dolphins players to watch

Here, we look at two Dolphins players to watch as the team looks to move to 2-0 on the season.

Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s validating to me because I don’t feel crazy. That’s kind of what I expected to happen with the work that he’s done. I think he needs to continue — literally, it’s the easiest most layup coaching point of all time — continue to do what you’re doing. Honestly, that’s where he’s at,” Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel on Tagovailoa’s Week 1 performance.

McDaniel is not lying. Tua completed 28-of-45 passes for 466 yards in a near record-setting performance as Miami outlasted the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. It was just the continuation of what we saw from him last season before the quarterback dealt with concussion issues.

It might be a tougher task heading into New England Sunday night. The Patriots held yet another elite signal caller in Jalen Hurts to 170 passing yards last week. Its secondary is among the best in the NFL. If Tua shows out here, it will tell us all we need to know about the Dolphins as a legit early-season Super Bowl contender.

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Eli Apple, cornerback

Miami didn’t sign Apple until late July after Pro Bowler Jalen Ramsey went down with a long-term injury. Thrown into a starting role last week, Apple performed well. The veteran yielded just two completions for 21 yards on four attempts against Justin Herbert and the Chargers.

Apple will now face off against a questionable Patriots wide receiver group come Sunday night. Outside of Kendrick Bourne (six catches, 64 yards), players at this position caught just 8-of-18 targets from Mac Jones in Week 1. With Xavien Howard slated to mirror Bourne, Apple has a chance to continue off last week’s performance.

Top New England Patriots players to watch

Here, we look at two Patriots players to keep an eye on as they look to rebound from a Week 1 loss.

Mac Jones, quarterback

new england patriots' mac jones

Despite an early pick-six last week against Philadelphia, Jones looked good under new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. The third-year quarterback led the NFL in completions (35) and attempts (54) while throwing for 316 yards with three touchdowns. While it’s not sustainable to have Jones throw this much, the game called for that. New England fell down 16-0 in the first quarter, only to find itself with a chance to win late in what was a 25-20 loss.

It will be interesting to see how Jones performs at home against an inferior defense compared to what he saw in the Eagles last week. Another solid outing from the still-young quarterback would go a long way in him flipping the script and changing the narrative surrounding him.

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Matt Judon, EDGE

Judon reworked his contract this past offseason to receive a bit of a raise after tallying 28 QB hits and 15.5 sacks for the Pats in 2022. He responded by recording two QB hits and a sack of the mobile Jalen Hurts in Week 1.

If the Patriots are going to have a chance to contain Tagovailoa and Co. come Sunday night, pressure is going to be key. Even without left tackle Terron Armstead in the mix last week, Tua was not sacked a single time as he attempted 45 passes. In fact, a Chargers defense led by Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack had just two QB hits on Tua. Judon needs to do his part Sunday night.

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Top Miami Dolphins storyline

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

We can’t take Miami seriously as a Super Bowl contender unless its defense steps up. Despite the thrilling Week 1 win against Los Angeles, that was not the case. Justin Herbert had a solid day, completing 23-of-33 passes for 228 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions.

Even then, it was all about Miami’s struggles stopping the run. The Chargers put up 234 yards on 40 attempts with Austin Ekeler (117 yards) and Joshua Kelley (91 yards) doing a lot of the work. Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis struggled filling the gaps in the trenches.

We’re intrigued to see how the Dolphins’ defensive front responds Sunday night. They are not necessarily taking on a juggernaut on the ground as evidenced by Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott combining for 54 yards on 19 attempts. If these two perform better come Week 2, it could be a harbinger of things to come for Miami.

Related: NFL Week 2 power rankings

Top New England Patriots storyline

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of Stevenson and Elliott, the two did nothing of real substance to provide balance for Jones last week. New offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien should want to see more balance on offense as long as the game trajectory allows it.

Elliott was signed late in the offseason to be a short-yardage complement to Stevenson. He did that last week to an extent, gaining three first downs on seven attempts. Stevenson? Not so much. He moved the markers just one time on 12 rush attempts after a 23% success rate during a breakout sophomore season in 2022. The onus is going to be on these two to provide balance on offense and help control the time of possession battle. After all, the less Tua and Co. are on the field, the better it will be for New England come Sunday night inside Gillette Stadium.

Final prediction: Miami Dolphins 31, New England Patriots 24