The Patriots receive the primetime slot on Sunday night for Week Two's matchup with the Miami Dolphins in a game the Patriots need to have. Not only do you not want to start the season 0-2 (with both losses at home), but suddenly, the AFC East doesn't look as powerful as it did during the offseason and the Patriots could really use a divisional win here. Here are three key matchups to watch for Sunday night.
1. Christian Gonzalez vs. Miami receivers
Gonzalez played well in his NFL debut, with seven tackles, a sack, and a key pass breakup while playing all 66 snaps on defense. Philadelphia's game plan seemed to be to target the rookie as Jalen Hurts threw Gonzalez's way a whopping 13 times (out of 33 attempts) as Gonzalez mainly worked opposite A.J. Brown.
Like the Eagles, the Dolphins have two number-one wideouts, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, so the Patriots' secondary will once again have their hands full. In the past, we have seen Jonathan Jones receive the assignment against Hill with a safety bracketed over the top. However, while Jones' missed practice on Thursday was chalked up as a veteran rest day, he was again absent on Friday, putting his availability into question. If he can't go, and with Jack Jones already out, the spotlight will be even brighter on Gonzalez.
2. Patriots tackles vs. Miami pass rush
Coming out of the game against the Eagles, the Patriots' offensive line was one of the high points as the much-maligned unit only surrendered two sacks.
The line is back in shambles just five days later, heading into week two. A whopping five linemen are on this week's Injury Report after guards Cole Strange, and Mike Onwenu already missed the first game. However, the significant development is Trent Brown and Sidy Sow showing up with concussions. Neither has practiced all week, making it unlikely they'll play on Sunday.
Calvin Anderson is listed on the depth chart as Brown's backup, but he is already filling in at right tackle for Riley Reiff, who is on IR. Sow filled in at guard last week but is listed as Anderson's backup at right tackle. That would leave third-string tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr. to protect the blindside of Mac Jones against a Dolphins defense that sacked Justin Herbert three times last week and supplied eight pressures. Perhaps this is a game in which the Patriots use a tight end to chip or even stay in to block.
3. Patriots running backs vs. Dolphins defense
Overall, it was not a great week for the Patriots running backs in Week One as they struggled to find any holes behind two rookie guards, and an Ezekiel Elliott fumble set up a Philadelphia touchdown. Some bright spots were an early 11-yard run from Elliott, Ty Montgomery's return, and a long screen pass to Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson, however, did not look like his 2022 self after battling an illness late in the week.
If Strange and Onwenu can return, this could be a big week for the ground game, as the Dolphins defense is coming off a game where they gave up 233 rushing yards (on 40 carries) to the Chargers. Austin Ekeler also added four receptions for 47 yards, and I could see Stevenson and Elliott playing a big role in the passing game as well.