One victory does not a season - or a career - make.
Sure, the Patriots put forth an impressive upset of the Cardinals last Sunday night in Arizona. And Jimmy Garoppolo couldn't have been much more successful in his first career start, his first of four games filling in for a suspended Tom Brady.
Suddenly, there is an almost universal expectation that the Patriots should run the table in the first quarter of the season, Garoppolo handing the team back to Brady with a 4-0 record.
Now, Garoppolo is seen as a potential franchise quarterback with a $100 million future in the NFL.
All this after a single -- admittedly impressive -- win.
Well, Ndamukong Suh and a dangerous Dolphins (0-1) defense may have something to say about such premature, excessive proclamations.
While New England looks to improve to 2-0 on Sunday at what could be a rainy Gillette Stadium, Miami comes to town trying to avoid a winless two-game start to Adam Gase's tenure as head coach in South Beach. While the Patriots ride high atop the AFC East thanks to a two-point win on opening day, Miami is once again looking up the standings thanks to a frustrating two-point loss in Seattle.
Are the Patriots in full cruise control after one week? Unlikely. Are the Dolphins dead in the waters after a single game? Unlikely.
As you get ready for Sunday afternoon's 1 p.m. kickoff in Foxborough, take a gander at a few keys leading up to this divisional battle:
Patriots Football Weekly's Andy Hart shares his players to watch during the Patriots home opener against the Dolphins.
Middle men- The Patriots did an impressive job dealing with what should be a good Arizona defense. There is a new, different challenge for Josh McDaniels offense and the front line. With a $100 million defensive tackle Suh, Pro Bowl pass rusher Cameron Wake and newcomer Mario Williams (assuming he plays after spending the week in the concussion protocol), the New England make-shift young offensive line has its work cut out. That's especially true on the inside against Suh. He's a very physical, athletic, powerful player who walks the line of clean play at times. He says he focused on rattling Garoppolo. So, the challenge is set for rookie left guard Joe Thuney, center David Andrews and the right guard spot, which might see Shaq Mason return to his starting job this week. That group needs to play well physically and continue to be solid in terms of communication. Then the tackles need to get their jobs done, especially on the right side where Marcus Cannon is likely to match up with Wake. The battle in the trenches is where it all starts for the New England offense.
Control the pressure - Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked five times in Seattle. He's still learning the Gase scheme and taking an even bigger role in the offense. He's athletic and can certainly make plays with his feet. The Patriots clearly have the ability to get after the quarterback, notching a relatively quiet three sacks in Arizona. Getting after Tannehill with controlled presser off the edges from the likes of Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard and Trey Flowers could open up some opportunities up the middle for guys like Jamie Collins, especially with Miami playing without injured center Mike Pouncey. Tannehill may have thrown for 350 yards in last year's finale against New England, but this time around it could be the Patriots defensive front looking to make plays against the Miami starting quarterback. Even with Rob Ninkovich suspended and Dont'a Hightower (knee) seemingly likely to miss the game, New England has the bodies to attack a suspect Dolphins line.
2nd impressions - Garoppolo made a lot of really nice plays and throws to win his first career start while notching a 106 passer rating. He returns home to a friendly Foxborough starting debut, but will have Miami looking to create some pressure. There is also the pressure of expectation the third-year backup now faces. That's a new challenge for him that he must deal with in what might be a wet-ball game. Plenty of quarterbacks have had impressive single games, even really impressive debuts. But stringing good games together is what truly makes a good quarterback. That's the road ahead this week for Garoppolo at home for the first time.
Health check - Injuries were major story heading into the opener as Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), Nate Solder (hamstring) and Jonathan Cooper (foot) all failed to even make the trip to Arizona. All three remain questionable on the injury report for Week 2. Gronkowski has looked a little bit better on the practice field this week and walking in the locker room, but that doesn't mean he's ready to roll. Solder also looks better just walking, so he seems more likely for a return. And Cooper has another week of practice under his belt after missing most of the summer. Mason played with a broken hand this week, but after practicing with a lesser wrap on the injury that freed up his finger he could have a chance to return to a starting job at right guard. The loss of Hightower, assuming he's out, is big in the middle of the defense. That will likely force Jamie Collins to take on a bigger role, including wearing the green dot as a playcaller. It's early, but the Patriots shave a lot of key players dealing with injuries. Pregame warmups and the inactive list will be very important to watch on Sunday morning.
Outside is in - The Patriots are known as a team that makes its bones through the air working the middle of the field. But this matchup with Miami might be a chance to work the outside a bit more often, depending on Gronkowski's status. The Dolphins have suspect corners in veteran Byron Maxwell and rookie Xavien Howard, who's dealing with a knee injury. The strength of the defense is the front seven - which will look to pressure Garoppolo - and safety Reshad Jones. But given the time and protection, Garoppolo could look to work the sidelines and edges of the field a bit more often, which could include nice reps for Chris Hogan and rookie Malcolm Mitchell.
No letting up - Clearly Belichick wanted to make it obvious he would not allow his team to let up or feel overly good after the impressive opener. He opened his Wednesday press conference emphasizing how badly his team played against Miami in last year's finale. Whether that's relevant this week or not - and it isn't given the situation, the location and the New England game plan - it was a clear message for his players to avoid a trap game. Still, human beings can react in many ways in many situations. The Patriots energy, effort and attitude are worth watching. Miami is a dangerous team in a tough spot. That's a challenge in and of itself.
Prediction - Miami hasn't been very competitive of late at Gillette Stadium. But, the last time the Dolphins won in Foxborough was against another New England backup, Matt Cassel, in 2008. That game saw the Wildcat take the Patriots and the NFL by storm. Could Miami take similar extreme measures this week? Is Garoppolo as ready for the weight of expectation as he was the challenge of opening night pressure on the road? Is the New England line capable of continuing to be good enough against a physical challenge? There are a lot of questions facing both teams in this battle. Still there are a lot of advantages for New England. They have the more settled coaching staff in a home game. That's a good spot to be in. The Dolphins are dealing with almost as many injuries. And, despite the divide in experience, the comparison of the two quarterbacks is probably not the advantage that Miami would hope it to be. I think the Patriots will find themselves in a tough game, though. The pressure up the middle could be an issue, something Garoppolo has shown a weakness for at times in preseason action. Still, I think the young quarterback will make plays against a suspect pass defense. And I expect New England to get more playmaking out of its own defense this week in the terms of sacks and turnovers. That, will key a 24-18 win that keeps the early momentum rolling.
What do you think of our keys? Let us know with a comment below!