You can't say that a division title will be decided in Week 1, but realistically if the Dolphins hope to end the Patriots' reign atop the AFC East they probably have to beat New England in the opener. The Pats are 3.5-point favorites on NFL odds.
Gronk Good To Go Or No?
The big story line for this game is whether Patriots Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski will be ready for Week 1. Gronk, who blew up social media on Monday when a photo was revealed of he and Johnny Manziel partying at a pool with several lovely ladies in Las Vegas over the weekend, tore his ACL and MCL in a Dec. 8 win over Cleveland. He appeared in only seven games in 2013 before the knee injury. Gronkowski had multiple surgeries last offseason on his left forearm. The New England offense was simply vastly better when he was in there. The Pats went 5-2 in his seven games and that included a 55-point explosion in a blowout of Pittsburgh. Gronk caught nine balls for 143 yards (both season highs) and a touchdown in that game. He had two catches for 27 yards in his only game against Miami.
This game will be the New England debut of cornerback Darrelle Revis. He was a Pro Bowler for the fifth time last year in his only season with Tampa Bay. Revis, who intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass last year, figures to be locked on to Miami's Mike Wallace, who largely disappointed in 2013 after getting a huge free agent contract to leave Pittsburgh. The Patriots will have to wait until Week 5 for the debut of their other big cornerback addition, former Seahawk Brandon Browner. He's suspended the first four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
The Dolphins, who would have made the playoffs if they had won just one of their final two games, made it a point to address the offensive line this offseason. That line was a big story last year for all the wrong reasons. For one, there was the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin bullying incident. Those two were both starters, and that line wasn't very good as Tannehill was sacked an NFL-high 58 times. Miami could have three new starters up front: left tackle Branden Albert, a free agent from Kansas City, left guard Shelley Smith, a free agent from St. Louis, and right tackle Ja'Wuan James, the team's 2014 first-round pick out of Tennessee.
Miami wasn't a good running team last year, ranking 26th at 90.0 yards per game. The Dolphins appear to have upgraded there with the addition of Broncos free agent Knowshon Moreno. Lamar Miller led Miami with just 709 yards rushing in 2013. Moreno rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 scores with Denver. He also caught a career-high 60 passes for three more scores.
New England visited south Florida in Week 15 last season and the Dolphins won 24-20 as 2.5-point favorites at sportsbooks. The total was set at 46.5. Tannehill had one of the best games of his career, throwing for 312 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He hit Marcus Thigpen on a 14-yard score with 1:15 left for the winning touchdowns. Tom Brady drove the Patriots down the field on New England's ensuing possessions but was intercepted on a fourth-down pass into the end zone with two seconds remaining. He threw for 364 yards and two scores but also attempted a whopping 55 passes. Julian Edelman caught 13 passes for 139 yards and Danny Amendola caught 10 for 131. The victory ended New England's seven-game winning streak in the series. The Pats won their home meeting with Miami 27-17 in Week 8 as the Fins blew a 17-3 third-quarter lead.
NFL Free Picks: The home team has covered the past four meetings so stick with that trend and add Miami to our NFL picks. New England also is 1-6 ATS in its past seven on the road. Also lean the 'under' 47 points. The 'under' has hit in the past four meetings.