Patriots visit Dolphins as historic road favorites

Baseball has the "Polar Bear" -- Pete Alonso of the New York Mets -- but the NFL has the "Polar Opposites": the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins.

The 1-0 Patriots, who visit the AFC East rival Dolphins (0-1) on Sunday, have won six Super Bowls, including three in the past five years.

Miami, meanwhile, hasn't won the Super Bowl since 1973 and hasn't won a playoff game in 19 years. This past Sunday, the Dolphins fell behind 42-3 in the second quarter to the visiting Baltimore Ravens before losing 59-10. The Ravens scored touchdowns on six of their seven possessions -- the only exception a punt Miami muffed and gave right back -- embarrassing the Dolphins in their season opener.

The Dolphins are last in the NFL in everyone's power rankings, and an ESPN analytics measure gives them a 45 percent chance of getting the first overall draft pick in 2020.

The Patriots, coming off an impressive 33-3 domination of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, are 19-point favorites against Miami. If that point spread holds, it would make Miami the largest home underdog since 1987, according to Pro Football Reference.

Dolphins rookie head coach Brian Flores knows firsthand how the New England machine operates. After all, he was with the Patriots organization from 2004 to 2018 in various capacities, most recently as linebackers coach and defensive playcaller.

"Continuity is the first thing that comes to mind," Flores said when asked why the Patriots are so successful. "They also have good players and good coaches."

One of those "good" players is Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Flores coached against Brady in practice the past eight years, but he doesn't believe it gives him any special insight.

"Not a lot of people get inside (Brady's) head," Flores said. "That's why we love this game. We love challenges."

One area of concern for the Patriots is the health of starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, who left Sunday's game against the Steelers due to a shoulder injury. As a backup plan, the Patriots this week signed offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse, who has played in 114 NFL games, including 72 starts.

Cannon's injury is not considered a season-ending issue, but the Patriots are preparing as if they won't have him on Sunday.

"Marcus is a good player," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. "It's going to be a big challenge (without him). Other guys have to step up and play well."

New England's offensive line has been in flux for several months. In March, starting left tackle Trent Brown signed with the Oakland Raiders for record money. Backup tackle Jared Veldheer retired in the spring, and starting center David Andrews -- one of New England's six captains -- was ruled out for the year in August due to blood clots in his lungs, moving Ted Karras into a starting role.

When Cannon went down on Sunday, the Patriots switched left guard Joe Thuney to right tackle and put Jermaine Eluemunor -- just acquired from Baltimore -- at left guard. Backup tackle Korey Cunningham, who was deactivated for the Steelers game, could start against Miami, or Newhouse could be pressed into service immediately.

The other big story regarding the Patriots is the signing last week of highly controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown, who had a falling out with the Steelers last year and was traded to the Raiders before earning his release there after various issues.

New England coach Bill Belichick signed Brown, and it is not yet known when/if he will make his Patriots debut.

To add to Brown's issues, he was named in a civil lawsuit on Tuesday by a female trainer who said he sexually assaulted her three separate times in 2017 and 2018. Brown, through his attorney, has denied the allegations.

USA Today reported the league could consider placing Brown on the commissioner's exempt list while it investigates the allegations. Belichick said the team is taking it "one day at a time" with Brown, who practiced for the first time on Wednesday.

For the Dolphins, there are two main injury concerns: wide receiver Albert Wilson (hip) and safety Reshad Jones (ankle). Neither player practiced on Wednesday.

--Field Level Media

09/11/2019 23:17

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