The New England Patriots kick-off their 2011 season in Miami on Monday night. The AFC East match-up should prove to be entertaining on several levels. Here are five thoughts on the upcoming game.

- Expect the Dolphins to put up a fight: Even though the Dolphins may not be poised to make a Super Bowl run this season, the Patriots should not take the division foe lightly. They will be playing in Miami, on Monday night football, against a division rival; anything can happen. Hopefully, the Pats come out firing on all cylinders and I would expect a competitive game.

- Be prepared for anything and everything: Brian Daboll, Miami’s offensive coordinator, is a trick-play innovator and a superb offensive mind in this league. Daboll was the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Brown’s last year, who caught the defense by surprise for big scores during the game. I hope the Patriots are prepared for some trick plays and some outside the box thinking for Miami’s offense. If the Patriots let their guard down, they could get burned.

- Protect Tom Brady: Yes, I know this seems obvious, but this will definitely be the match-up to watch on Monday night. The Patriots essentially have a new right-side to their offensive line with veteran guard Brian Waters new to the team and rookie tackle Nate Solder slated to start at right tackle. The Dolphins front seven, including pass-rushing terror Cameron Wake, are salivating at the thought of facing a rookie on opening night. Hopefully, the line can keep Brady and give him enough time to run the offense properly.


Rookie tackle Nate Solder will have his hands full with Cameron Wake and the Dolphins defense on Monday night. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- Unleash the Patriots new look defense: Of all the aspects of this game, I am definitely looking forward to watching the Patriots defense the most. With Belichick’s new defensive scheme and the several additions the team made during the off-season, my expectations are high. I hope the coaching staff unleashes their new weapons and get in Chad Henne’s face. I would love to see them generate consistent pressure and force a couple of turnovers.

- Don’t take your foot off the gas: If the Patriots get off to an early lead, which I expect them too, I hope they keep the foot on the gas. Meaning I do not want them to relax and play prevent defense and conservative offense. They could get caught off guard easily with one of the Dolphin’s trick plays and the game could be much closer than anticipated. The Patriots need to play their style of smart and disciplined football.

With all of these thoughts taken into consideration. I believe the Patriots can win this game on the road. While I don’t believe it will be a blow out for the Patriots, they should win by 10-point margin. My prediction is Patriots – 34,  Dolphins – 24.

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