For the third straight season, the New England Patriots (+3.5) will open their season against AFC East division rival Miami Dolphins. Unlike last season, New England will travel down south to Miami for the opener, where their recent struggles have been well documented. After opening as 2.5-point favorites on the DraftKings Sportsbook, the Fins now enter Sunday's contest as 3.5-point favorites, which features a total of 45.5. Here are five enticing bets to watch throughout the matchup.
Meyers in Miami
In two games against Miami last season, Jakobi Meyers led all New England pass catchers with 17 total targets. Showcasing a strong connection with Mac Jones throughout training camp, it would be no surprise if Meyers is again peppered with targets in the season opener. As Bill Belichick alluded to in Tuesday's press conference, Miami is a blitz happy team. Led by defensive coordinator Josh Boyer - a former Patriot assistant who worked in Miami under Brian Flores - the Dolphins sent extra pass rushers on 40.8 percent of their defensive plays last season, according to Pro Football Reference. That number ranked second-highest in the entire NFL.
Handling free rushers has been one of New England's biggest issues throughout the offseason. With new starters at four of the five offensive line spots and new coaches, the early growing pains have been as expected. On Sunday, heavy amounts of pressure will likely force Jones to get the ball out quickly, where he'll look for perhaps his most consistent and reliable receiver in Meyers.
The pick: Jakobi Meyers Over 48.5 receiving yards (-115)
Reunion at Hard Rock
One of the Patriots biggest moves of the offseason was acquiring wide receiver DeVante Parker from the Dolphins. While Parker made a strong first impression throughout the early days of training camp, a similar impression may be put on hold in Week 1 against Miami.
"[Miami is] one of the highest percentages of man-to-man coverages in the league," Bill Belichick told reporters on Tuesday. "Certainly not all man, but they play a high percentage of it - higher than most."
Man-to-man looks will likely result in Parker seeing his fair share of cornerback Xavien Howard. Howard has been one of the best man coverage cornerbacks in the entire NFL in recent years. Since 2020, his 44.9 passer rating allowed in single coverage in the lowest amongst cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Pairing Howard's elite coverage skills with his 6-foot-1 frame, Parker will be in for a tough battle in his first game in New England.
The pick: DeVante Parker Under 42.5 receiving yards (-115)
Smith for Six
After a disappointing first season in New England, the Patriots will look to get a better return on investment from Jonnu Smith in 2022. Throughout training camp, they have been committed to doing so, force feeding Smith touches in a bevy of ways.
Part of the reason Smith has seen the ball more during the summer is the fact he's been on the field more. After playing just 525 offensive snaps last season, the Patriots have committed to more 12 personnel (two WRs, two TEs, one RB) looks this offseason. Under Josh McDaniels last season, New England ranked 27th in the league in 12 personnel usage, running just 14 percent of their total plays out of that package.
The Patriots will continue to get creative with their tight end in Week 1 as Smith will look to carry his impressive performances on the practice fields over to the game field and start off year two in New England on the right foot.
The pick: Jonnu Smith Anytime TD Scorer (+400)
Under new head coach Mike McDaniel, it appears Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki's role will be altered. After being used almost as a wide receiver in the slot the past few seasons, Gesicki was used more like a traditional tight end throughout the preseason.
Matching up against New England, Gesicki will be in for an immediate challenge in that role. The Patriots defense was stingy against opposing tight ends all last season, specifically shutting down Gesicki (two receptions for 22 yards in two games). This year, things should be even more challenging against a remodeled Patriots defense. Linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson Sr. have impressed in coverage this offseason with their plus athleticism, while New England's deep and talented safety room could also be tasked with slowing down Gesicki.
With a new role, more target competition surrounding him, and a match-up against a tough New England defense, Gesicki could be in for a slow start to the 2022 season.
The pick: Mike Gesicki Under 30.5 receiving yards (-125)
Play of the Day
In their last nine trips to Miami, the Patriots are just 2-7 straight up. In total, the Dolphins have defeated the Patriots in their last three straight matchups and four-out-of-the-last-five.
The recent struggles have inspired change from New England. Instead of traveling on Saturday, the Patriots packed their bags and headed to Miami on Tuesday, likely to accumulate to the southern heat. However, history shows, the Patriots main issues in Miami come later in the season when they travel from the cold Foxborough, Massachusetts to the hot and humid Florida. In their last six road games against Miami in the months of September and October, New England boasts an impressive 5-1 record.
Disregarding the weather, it would be no surprise if both teams got off to slow starts. New England's offense has struggled throughout the preseason while Miami will take the field for the first time under new head coach Mike McDaniel. For New England, their new-look defense and past success against some of Miami's top playmakers should keep the game relatively close. Overall, the total has hit the under in nine of New England's last 13 road games and six of their last nine games against Miami.
As Bill Belichick said, Week 1 of the regular season leaves room for the "unknown", especially against a first year head coach. The unexpectedness and relatively even spread sets up a strong teaser opportunity.
The pick: Teaser - Patriots +9.5 AND Under 52.5 (-120)