That alone is reason enough to be ecstatic for this game. For the first time in the 2016 season, the Patriots will face off against a divisional rival.
Look, divisional games are worth their weight in gold. Not only does beating a divisional rival give a team distance in the standings, but it also helps with tiebreakers at the end of the season as the playoff picture becomes clearer.
Additionally, divisional games, especially in the AFC East, are heated affairs. Expect several post-whistle pushes and shoves between the Patriots and Dolphins on Sunday, as this is one of the more bitter rivalries in the NFL. The two teams know each other extremely well, and there isn’t much in the way of love lost between them.
So there you go; one of the reasons to be excited for Week 2 is simply the fact that this is the first divisional matchup of the season. Furthermore, throughout the game, the Patriots will be looking for…
The Dolphins beat the Patriots in Week 17 last year. Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots will be looking to serve the Dolphins a cold dish of revenge on Sunday, as this aqua-clad team has been giving the Patriots headaches in recent years. The Dolphins have actually won three of the past five meetings dating back to December of 2015, so it’s on the Patriots to curb that trend.
Most recently, the Dolphins foiled the Patriots’ drive at earning the No. 1 overall seed in the 2015 playoffs by winning in every phase of the game in Week 17 last year, 20-10. It was a meaningless game only to a certain extent; no matter what, the Patriots were going to be in the playoffs, but losing out on the No. 1 overall seed came back to bite them later when the Denver Broncos ran train on them in the AFC Championship Game.
Nothing would help to soothe the pain of losing to the Dolphins in the 2015 regular season finale quite like sending them to 0-2 on the year by taking care of business at home this Sunday.
Another reason Patriots fans should be excited for Week 2 is…
Jimmy Garoppolo (10) will start in his first home game this week. Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Home debut of Jimmy Garoppolo
We all watched as Jimmy Garoppolo shocked the NFL with a near-flawless outing on national television in Week 1, but that was an away game. Not many Patriots fans live in the Arizona desert.
The home debut of Jimmy G as a starter is reason enough to be excited for Week 2. It will be interesting to see how the home crowd welcomes a man who is essentially interviewing to be Tom Brady’s replacement in the not-too-distant future. Will the Foxboro faithful welcome him like they would Brady?
Regardless of what the crowd cheers, it will be fun to watch Garoppolo wearing the home blue jersey and piloting the Patriots’ offense at Gillette Stadium. After overcoming the challenge of playing in the hostile Arizona environment, Garoppolo should feel much more comfortable in front of Patriots fans.
In Week 2, Garoppolo and the Patriots offense will have the chance to…
Kiko Alonso (47) will be targeted by the Patriots in Week 2. Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
Showing up the Dolphins’ offseason additions on defense
A common joke in the NFL is that the Dolphins always win the offseason. They spend buckets of cash on big names, especially on defense, in the spring in hopes that the moves will translate into success in the fall. But that plan hasn’t worked out all too well in the recent past, and there is no indication to think otherwise as we enter Week 2 of the 2016 regular season.
Expect the Patriots to run directly at Kiko Alonso when he’s on the field, and to target the linebacker in the passing game should he cover a tight end such as Rob Gronkowski or Martellus Bennett, or running back James White for that matter.
Additionally, look for Garoppolo to test Byron Maxwell, regardless of who the journeyman veteran cornerback is covering. Certainly, if Maxwell is marking Julian Edelman, Garoppolo won’t think twice about focusing on No. 11; Edelman will win that matchup all day.
The point here is that the Dolphins like to boast all these big-name offseason signings, but Patriots fans should be excited to watch their team make the Dolphins look foolish in Week 2.
Last but not least, another reason to be excited for Week 2 is…
Anthony Johnson (76), pictured here with the Dolphins in 2014, is facing his old team in Week 2. Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Johnson started his NFL career with the Dolphins in 2014 as an undrafted free agent. However, the former LSU star ended up on the season-ending reserve by December of that year, and then he was cut in 2015 training camp. Johnson bounced over to the Washington Redskins for a brief spell late in 2015 before the Patriots signed him.
Considering Johnson’s tumultuous past with the Dolphins, you can bet that he is just a little motivated to put up a big game against his former team. Look, this is not the same Johnson that the Dolphins cut a year ago and that bounced around the Redskins’ practice squad in December of 2015; he has lost weight and regained the lethal speed that made him so good in college.
Remember, the Patriots cut Terrance Knighton and Markus Kuhn in favor of Johnson, so they are confident that he is capable of producing in their defense. Keep a close eye on the man wearing No. 96 on Sunday.