(CBS Miami) – The New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East for two decades, winning the division 11 in a row. During this stretch, the Miami Dolphins only posted a record of 500 or better three times. You last won the division in 2008.

But this season is already developing very differently for many reasons, mainly in connection with the current COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL draft was removed. Personal activities out of season have been cut back significantly. And the preseason was canceled immediately. All of this affects the teams' ability to unite on the field and gauge their opponents in the preseason.

Another reason is the possible shift in the balance of power in the AFC East. In New England, Tom Brady is no longer the Pats quarterback after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In Miami, the Dolphins are welcoming a number of high quality new players from both the NFL Draft and the independent agency. (The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets should also improve, though it remains unclear how much of that remains.)

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The Patriots and Dolphins meet in Foxboro to open the season. Week 1 is the first time we've seen a team of patriots led by Cam Newton. Newton was the 2015 NFL MVP, leading the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl that season. He brings with him new skills that the offense of the Patriots has not seen for some time. And it's obvious that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels can open the playbook a little further.

Sony Michel should lead the way this week in a strong running game that has Damien Harris injured. Rex Burkhead will also receive a fair share of the touch, and James White remains a threat from the background. Newton will also have the advantage of safe Julian Edelman in the middle if he hands over. The big unknown is how much game action it takes to balance the Newton with the rest of the Patriots' offensive.

The Patriots defense was one of the best in the NFL last season, giving up a league low of 4,414 meters. The strong stats believe teams like the Baltimore Ravens, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Houston Texans could push them around. And now the unit is getting worse after losing to Dont & # 39; a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton in the off-season. The defensive backcourt remains strong, but they can fight in front of them without enough help.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, are a team on the rise. This team is greatly enhanced by heavy involvement in the NFL Draft and the free agency. The only question is when.

"The only thing I think about the Dolphins is that they have the chance to take a really big leap," said Tony Romo, NFL analyst at CBS Sports. "You will probably be a year away from jumping to a possible championship battle." If I say that, the teams have done it before. If you have six picks in the top 70 and you know what they did in the free agency … I guess everything the Dolphins did without evaluating the talent they designed in the draft … For me you have to get offensive linemen and you have to be able to cover. And if you can get your line of defense to play hard. "

The Dolphins added their future quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, as one of their three first round picks. He will learn from the sidelines to start the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the center. But offensive colleagues against Austin Jackson and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene should make an immediate contribution.

The team was also active in the free hand and especially helped in defense. Byron Jones gives them a corner to switch off. Defensive End Shaq Lawson comes from the Buffalo Bills to reinforce their onslaught from the edge. And Kyle Van Noy gives them a solid all-purpose linebacker.

Teams with some continuity in terms of coaching and players will have the advantage at the start of the season. The Patriots remain under the leadership of Bill Belichick and the Dolphins under the leadership of Brian Flores. But adding (and subtracting) key personnel will hurt these two teams early on. Both will take time to get together as they haven't benefited from a preseason.

This Sunday will get a feel for how everything will turn out. According to SportsLines Wizard Of Odds Kenny White, these teams are “very evenly coordinated. The Dolphins Patriots game started with the Patriots minus seven. There are still seven on the market, but there are also 6 1/2. With the tickets split between 50 and 50, the pros seem to be leaning a little on Dolphins Week 1 at plus seven. "

The Dolphins play the Patriots Sunday, September 13th at 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS.


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