Miami Dolphins (0-0, 0-0 ATS) at New England Patriots (0-0, 0-0), 4:25 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Dolphins 20.25, Patriots 23.25
Spread/Total Movements: 2 to 3, 45 to 43.5
Weather: 75 degrees, 10 mph, 5% chance of rain
Dolphins Injuries to Watch: WR Will Fuller (suspension), WR Preston Williams (foot), TE Adam Shaheen (COVID-19, out), LT Austin Jackson (COVID-19)
Patriots Injuries to Watch: CB Stephon Gilmore (quad, PUP), WR Nelson Agholor (ankle), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (thumb), WR N’Keal Harry (shoulder, IR)
Brolley’s Dolphins Stats and Trends
The Dolphins and Bills finished with league-best 11-5 ATS records last season.
These teams played under the total in both of their contests last season by a combined 16 points, and they’re 4-2 toward unders since Brian Flores took over in Miami.
The Dolphins are 4-1 ATS in their last five games as a road underdog.
Tua Tagovailoa is 3-0 ATS as an underdog.
It’s officially Tua Time for the Dolphins after several starts (and stops) during his rookie season. He had a rough rookie season as he averaged just 6.3 YPA, but he’ll now be 22 months removed from his hip injury and his receiving corps has been majorly upgraded. He’ll also have a playbook catered toward him with co-offensive coordinators George Godsey and Eric Studesville taking over. Tua averaged just 5.6 YPA without a touchdown in a victory over the Patriots in Week 15 last season.
DeVante Parker couldn’t maintain his high level of play in 2020 as he struggled through a hamstring injury and a quarterback carousel. His fantasy production from 2019 to 2020 plummeted mostly because of his dip in touchdowns (9>4) and in YPR (16.7>12.6). He won’t have to face Stephon Gilmore this week after he posted just 4/47 receiving in his only matchup against the Patriots last season with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
Jaylen Waddle gets a solid first spot to make some noise with Gilmore and Will Fuller (suspension) out of the lineup. Miami’s sixth overall pick averaged a silly 18.9 YPR in 34 career games with the Crimson Tide, and he posted 3.1 catches per game and 58.8 receiving yards per game with 17 TDs. The Patriots gave up the 10th-fewest FPG (34.2) to WRs last season.
Mike Gesicki finished as the TE8 with 10.6 FPG while playing 63% of the snaps last season. He’s seen the sixth-most TE targets (174) in the last two seasons but his path to maintaining his 5.6 targets per game in that span got a lot tougher with the Dolphins upgrading their WR corps and with them drafting Hunter Long in the third round. Gesicki managed just 3/30 receiving on five targets in his only matchup against the Patriots in Week 1 last season.
Myles Gaskin came out of nowhere to become a waiver wire hit last season, and he’ll be looking to hold off Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed for touches and snaps. He finished as the RB9 with 16.6 FPG while playing 69% of the snaps in 10 contests, and he did most of his damage through the air (41/388/2 receiving on 47 targets). Gaskin posted 9/40 rushing and 4/26 receiving in his only matchup against the Patriots in Week 1 last season.
Brolley’s Patriots Stats and Trends
The Patriots finished with an AFC-best 11-5 mark toward unders, including a 7-1 unders run to end last season.
New England has covered in four of its last five season openers.
Mac Jones, New England’s 2021 first-round pick, is the team’s new starting quarterback after the team released Cam Newton at the end of August. Jones flew up draft boards during Alabama’s national championship run after averaging 346.2 passing yards per game for 41 TDs and just four INTs in 13 games. He completed a silly 77.4% of his passes while averaging 11.2 YPA. The Dolphins allowed the 12th-fewest FPG (18.6) to QBs last season.
Jakobi Meyers needed a Julian Edelman injury to break into the lineup last season, but the former UDFA WR never looked back after he got his chance starting in Week 7. Meyers led the Patriots with a 29% target share last season on his way to posting 59/729/0 receiving (12.4 YPR) on 81 targets. He hung 7/111 receiving on 10 targets in a Week 15 matchup against the Dolphins last season with Cam at quarterback.
Nelson Agholor averaged 12.9 FPG in his final 13 games with the Raiders last season and he had three different performances with 100+ yards and a touchdown. Agholor finished behind only Marquez Valdes-Scantling with an 18.7 YPR average and he finished sixth in average depth of target at 15.7 yards. Agholor’s career took off with a move to the perimeter last season. He ran 67% of his routes on the outside after he previously ran 56% of his routes or more from the slot in each of his last three seasons in Philadelphia. He went nuclear against the Dolphins last season with 5/155/1 receiving in a Week 16 matchup.
Patriots TEs saw a league-low 33 targets for a pathetic 18/254/1 receiving last season. The Patriots remedied the situation by signing the two biggest free agents in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry to give them the league’s best 1-2 TE combination. Both Jonnu (ankle) and Hunter (shoulder) dealt with injuries in August, but we’ve given Smith the passing-game advantage in our season projections. The Dolphins gave up the sixth-fewest FPG (10.8) to TEs last season, and opponents targeted the position just 6.5 times per game (10th-fewest).
Damien Harris and James White received massive upgrades with Newton, The Fantasy Blackhole, out of the picture since Jones is a competent passer and he won’t vulture touchdowns at the goal line. White still saw a target on a whopping 31.0% of his routes run (57 of 184) last season, and he should run a lot more routes with Jones at quarterback after he averaged 374 routes per season in 2018-19 with Tom Brady. Meanwhile, Harris now has double-digit touchdown upside since there is no longer the threat of Cam stealing 12 rushing TDs like he did last season. Harris had a pristine runout to the start of the season with Sony Michel also being traded to the Rams. White combined for 7/82 receiving in two games against the Patriots last season while Harris didn’t see action in either contest.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.9 (27th)
Plays per game: 64.6 (14th)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 58.9% (13th) | Run: 41.1% (20th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 48.4% (21st) | Run: 51.6% (12th)
When the team is behind — Pass: 66.7% (13th) | Run: 33.3% (20th)
Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.4 (14th)
Plays per game: 60.2 (30th)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 49.3% (31st) | Run: 50.7% (2nd)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 38.2% (32nd) | Run: 61.7% (1st)
When the team is behind — Pass: 53.8% (31st) | Run: 46.2% (2nd)
Miami was one of the slowest-paced teams in the NFL last year and relied on a balanced attack in all game situations. The Dolphins also played at a snail’s pace in every game-script, ranking 6th-slowest in pace when the game was within a score, 3rd-slowest when leading, and 7th-slowest when trailing. However, the team is now changing offensive coordinators for the fifth-straight season after moving on from Chan Gailey this offseason. And Miami replaced Gailey with… two coaches. The Dolphins have co-offensive coordinators after elevating former TEs coach George Godsey and former RBs coach Eric Studesville to the post. The Patriots are obviously going to change up their game-plan now that Mac Jones is the starter, but I’m still expecting them to go very run-heavy early in the season. Both of these teams are going to lean on the run and rely on their defense to keep this one close, so I’m expecting nothing short of a bruising, sluggish game-script here. The over/under has dipped 2 points down to 43.5 since it opened, so Vegas is expecting a similar result.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Look, this is not the best of spots for Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones. But there is no denying that Jones’ presence in the lineup favors a long list of his playmaking teammates, none more so than Jakobi Meyers. During Jones’ monster 2020 season with Alabama, Jaylen Waddle was on pace for crazy numbers before breaking his ankle. Prior to the injury, Waddle did the majority of his work from the slot. When Waddle went down, we all know what DeVonta Smith went on to achieve. What may not be common knowledge is that Smith shifted inside to run the majority of his routes from the slot during the Crimson Tide’s championship run.
Do I need to remind you who will be the primary target out of the slot for the Pats? If you missed all of the daily reports from the Patriots’ training camp and joint practices, they passed along that Meyers established himself as the clear go-to WR at every available opportunity. When Nelson Agholor (who might not play, by the way) and Kendrick Bourne are dealing with Miami’s impressive outside corner duo, Meyers will work against Nik Needham. Needham is no scrub, but it’s the most exploitable matchup here, and if Agholor sits, there should be plenty of opportunity for him to get targets.
I also like the matchup for the oft-disrespected Tua Tagovailoa here, and it’s because of some injuries. While he will be without Will Fuller, the Pats will be down Stephon Gilmore, who is their only travel cover corner. I actually think this could be a solid spot for Jaylen Waddle in the slot against Jonathan Jones, and TE Mike Gesicki has a favorable matchup — or at least a gettable one — with S Adrian Phillips. Keep in mind that DB Jalen Mills (ankle) was also a midweek downgrade for New England, so this could be a much more open matchup than you might think.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
I’m still partying that Mac Jones was named the starter in New England given what it means to the rest of these fantasy options, but it’s not a great matchup in Week 1 against Miami. I want nothing to do with Mac’s perimeter receivers, and that’s even if Nelson Agholor (ankle) plays. I do think Jakobi Meyers could get a ton of targets here, enough to pay off as a WR3.
I’ve been in on TE Jonnu Smith all off-season, and he could also see an uptick in targets in the event that Agholor doesn’t play. I view Jonnu as a low-end TE1 — we had intel this off-season that Smith could well lead this team in targets — and I’ll be watching to see what Hunter Henry does before I can recommend putting him into a lineup.
The Pats are 2-point favorites at home, and while the Dolphins were a bottom-half fantasy matchup for running backs last year, I think Bill Belichick will want to settle Jones in by giving a heaping helping of carries to Damien Harris, whom we have ranked as a low-end RB2 this week. He’ll get volume, and with no Cam Newton in town, he could also get TD opportunities. On third downs, James White might get enough targets to pay off as a PPR FLEX — I have him starting in several leagues where I went WR heavy and picked White late.
I’m not in a spot where I’m starting Tua Tagovailoa in any one-QB leagues, but this matchup is softer than you might think given the injuries and absences in the New England secondary. Stephon Gilmore and/or Jalen Mills being sidelined is good news for DeVante Parker, who also doesn’t have to deal with Will Fuller taking away targets. I think you can make the argument Parker is a WR3, and Jaylen Waddle is a dart-throw WR4/FLEX. The problem for Tua is that LT Austin Jackson struggled in the preseason and — burying the lede here — will be out this week with COVID-19, and the Pats spent a lot of resources beefing up their pass rush. Like Jonnu Smith, I view Mike Gesicki as a defensible TE1.
The only Dolphin RB to consider — and I think he’s a mid-range RB2 this week in a projected tight game — is Myles Gaskin. Gaskin got an endorsement from head coach Brian Flores recently.