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The Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on Monday night to begin their 2011 season. Tom Brady has led the Patriots to a 12-6 record against the Dolphins since taking over the reins in 2001.
Monday night, Brady will be leading a team with many new names on the roster. On the offensive side of the ball, key additions Chad Ochocino and Brian Waters will make their debut in a Patriots uniform. On the defensive side, Albert Haynesworth, Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, and Shaun Ellis bring a whole new look to the defensive line and will look to wreak havoc on quarterback Chad Henne.
The Miami Dolphins have also had some changes on their roster over the past year. Both running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, who have both had some success against the Patriots, are gone. They have brought in Reggie Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas for their running attack. They still have the always dangerous Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess, who always seems to have a big game against the Patriots. However, the issue is Henne. Plain and simple, he is their week link. With Henne at the helm of their offense, the Patriots automatically get the edge.
Brady is obviously the biggest key in winning the game. If he continues the MVP season from a year ago and torches the Miami defense, then the Patriots should have an easy game on their hands. However, if the Miami defense can cause Brady problems, which they have done in the past, the Dolphins can pull off the upset.
There are a few other key things to look for in the game against the Dolphins that will help determine the outcome of this game along with other games this season. First, how is Ochocinco doing in the offense, is he understanding it, and will he come in and be an immediate key contributor like everyone thought after the trade?
Another thing to watch is the pass rush: Sacks aren’t necessarily important, but can the D-Line cause disruption, and will the “sleeping giant” Albert Haynesworth wake up and become one of the top defensive lineman in the league again?
The final key to success for this game and games to come will be the secondary. The corners look solid with McCourty and Bodden, but the question mark is at the safety after the Pats cut James Sanders and Brandon Merriweather. A lot of pressure has been put on Patrick Chung, Sergio Brown, Josh Barret, and James Ihedigbo to carry the load at safety.
Everything in this game points in the Patriots favor, the prior match-ups, the rosters, and the eye test. The Patriots SHOULD win this game, however we all know anything can happen on Sunday.