The New England Patriots head south to Sun Life Stadium to take on the Miami Dolphins as part of a double header of NFL Football games to kick off the 2011-12 Monday Night Football season. Coming out of the preseason as the favorite to win Super Bowl XLVI getting 11/2 odds at Bodog Sportsbook (read the review of Bodog Sportsbook), New England enters tonight’s match-up as the heavy favorite, behind one of the most dominant offenses in the league led by one of the best quarterbacks to every play the game in Tom Brady. The Patriots also ride an 8-game winning streak against the Dolphins and are coming off a Week 17 38-7 bruising victory last season, but they enter this year knowing that no opponent can be taken for granted, as they learned painfully well at the hands of the New York Jets, who bumped them out of the AFC Playoffs. The run towards the Super Bowl starts here and now for the Patriots, but on the other side of the football, many questions still remain for the Tony Sparano-led Dolphins, who still have not settled on quarterback to lead them into the future and will be negotiating with a new running back tandem after departing with both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown during the offseason.
Betting Lines for New England vs. Miami:
Bodog Sportsbook finds the New England Patriots as an 8 point favorite entering tonight’s match-up, and are favorites to win on the money line with heavy -360 odds behind the potent combination of Tom Brady and his corps of receivers including Wes Welker, the newly acquired Chad Ochocinco, and veteran Deion Branch. Averaging more than 34 points per game during the last half of the season last year, there is no question that this improved QB-WR set will be looking to produce even more offensive damage against opponents, leading to many busted over total points margins. That said, the Miami Dolphins, who are an 8 point underdog and at home will get +280 odds on the money line to win, are one of the league’s best in terms of defense and will certainly be honed in on containing Brady’s receiver weaponry in the hopes of keeping the scoring to a minimum. With an over/under on tonight’s game at 46 points on Bodog Sportsbook, bookmakers are certainly factoring in a stout Miami defense to keep the points down, but it may only be a matter time before Brady, his receivers, and the backfield tandem of Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead make life very tough for the Dolphin defense to keep in check.
Our Pick to Win:
Based on the additions on either side of the football this offseason, the New England Patriots have to be the favorite to win in anyone’s mind. With simply too many weapons to contend with, the Patriots cover the points spread, and shut down the Miami running game tonight, taking a commanding victory in Miami by a score of 34-13.
Players to Watch, New England:
Chad Ochocinco, WR – From the moment #85 shifted to a Patriots jersey, I predicted he’d return to 1,000 yard form, and be a serious threat once again in tandem with the speedy Wes Welker. Look for Ochocino to reel in a TD to start the season , and begin a beautiful relationship with Tom Brady right off the bat.
Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, RB – With even more threats at wide receiver this year, now is the time for BJGE to really shine. Coming off a 1000-yard season and averaging a stout 4.4 yards per carry, watch out for this guy to break into the elite group of running backs as he pushes towards a 1,200-1,300 yard season.
Players to Watch, Miami:
Chad Henne, QB – This is Henne’s last hurrah, at least as far as the Miami fans are concerned. Henne was not in favor in training camp, with fans in attendance calling for Kyle Orton to be their guy this year, and as such Henne will have to show right off the bat that he belongs in a Dolphins uniform. There is no excuse for slacking, with two talented receivers in Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess to throw to, but his season may fall to the production of the running back tandem, which is unproven and could put even more pressure on Henne to excel in the passing game.
Reggie Bush, RB – Coming off a trade from the Saints, Bush has the most pressure on him to hold down the fort in the Miami backfield. Injury prone, and never much of a straight forward runner, there are tons of question marks about whether Bush can excel as a feature back, especially alongside rookie Daniel Thomas. Bush, and the Miami running backs could be the difference between a decent season, and one that falls to pieces from the very start.