The New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins often make for exciting matchups, where strange or unexpected things tend to happen.
For the superstitious ones in the football world, that’s the big overarching question hanging over this Patriots-Dolphins game, when NFL eyeballs will be all over them on “Sunday Night Football.” What kind of weird shit’s gonna go down?
Even just in the past five seasons, the Patriots have endured the Miami Miracle, Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeVante Parker roasting Stephon Gilmore for a Week 17 upset in 2019, and Damien Harris’ late fumble ruining a possible win in 2021. So, it would be understandable for Patriots fans to hold their breath until the clock reads triple-zero whenever the Dolphins take the field.
But that doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed to get something weird on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, when the Patriots (0-1) and Dolphins (1-0) clash for the first time in 2023. Say it’s your standard, run-of-the-mill NFL football game, when the better team over the course of 60 minutes wins the game. Nothing freaky. Nothing goofy. Who’s got the edge? How’s it going to go for the home team?
Fair to ask. Let’s go over five key questions ahead of Patriots-Dolphins that could be major factors in how the game is decided…
Who’s covering the OTHER star receiver?
The Patriots’ defensive gameplan will, and should, center around slowing down All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill. But the Dolphins have a two-headed monster. So what’s the plan with Jaylen Waddle?
If Jonathan Jones (ankle injury) can’t play, that will severely complicate things, because he’s been their guy covering Hill for years. But let’s say he’s in, or his absence wouldn’t dramatically alter the gameplan. It’ll be interesting to see who the Patriots deploy against Waddle, a game-changing slot receiver that can make big plays with his high-end speed and slipperiness after the catch.
Safe money could be on rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez, who has already earned a lot of trust from the Patriots’ coaching staff and has the requisite speed to keep up with top-end speed guys like Waddle. But if they’re going to slow down both Hill and Waddle, it’s going to take a total team effort.
“we play together,” Gonzalez said Friday. “Whoever’s gonna be out there, we’re all gonna go and just do what we’ve got to do. Like, I was talking about the gameplan; everybody’s ready to go. We’re excited.”