First Test for Patriots Set for Sunday Night

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Football is finally back.  Yes, the empty stadiums looked weird, but for the most part, this past Sunday felt like any other Sunday during football season. Even more so because the Patriots came away with a win.  With no preseason, I had no idea what to expect from this team.  To be honest, I still don't know.  Had N'Keal Harry not fumbled the ball out of the back of the endzone, the final score could have looked a lot different.  Alas, he did and the game was closer than it probably should have been.  At the end of the day though, a win is a win.

Photo courtesy of Yahoo Sports

My biggest takeaway from Sunday's win?  Cam Newton will single-handedly improve this team's red zone offense.  The Pats were 26th in the league in red zone offense last year.  Newton may take them into the top 10 this year.  He's just so dynamic and hard to tackle in short yardage.  He gives Josh McDaniels so many options inside the 20.  He's going to lead this team in rushing touchdowns this year, health permitting.  

We saw it with his two touchdown runs on Sunday.  Both of them designed runs.  It just adds a whole new wrinkle to this Patriots offense, one they haven't had in decades.  Newton could be like Rob Gronkowski was; a guy New England consistently relies on in the red zone.  He seemed to be moving okay throughout the game.  I know he appeared to be grabbing at his hamstring at the end of the game, so we'll see if that amounts to anything.  If not, he's going to be fun to watch this year. 

Passing wise?  He was fine.  Didn't make any bad throws.  Just 4 incompletions, one of which was a good throw that Julian Edelman couldn't hang onto.  The Pats took early control of this game and didn't have to rely on their pass offense too much, which is a good thing.  That's where they'll find themselves in trouble this year.  They'll find success if they can get a lead and lean on Newton. 

Some other guys who caught my eye against Miami: Adrian Phillips, Chase Winovich and Terrence Brooks.  I thought all three of them played well and made some noteworthy plays.  Another guy to keep an eye on is J.J. Taylor.  Feels like he could be an asset for this offense.

Overall a solid debut for Newton, but nothing eye-opening.  That's mainly because of the opponent.  I know there was a little bit of buzz around the Dolphins this offseason because of the way they finished last year, and with the drafting of Tua, but they still have a ways to go.  This was a perfect team to open the season against, especially after having no preseason.  Things will get infinitely tougher this Sunday against Seattle though, and that's where we'll learn more about Newton, and this team as a whole.

They're going to need to pass the ball more Sunday night.  Newton is going to have to make some throws to win this game.  Fifteen completions and 150+ yards won't be enough.  Seattle's defense may not be elite, but they have much more talent than Miami, especially at the linebacker position with Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin and K.J. Wright.  Don't forget their stud of a safety in Jamal Adams. 

On the other side of the ball, Russell Wilson is one of the best QB's in the game.  New England's defense was good on Sunday, and their secondary was great, but they'll have a tougher challenge this week with DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Greg Olsen. 

New England didn't generate a ton of pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick, which will be a problem against a guy like Wilson.  Even if they do get pressure on him, he has the ability to take off and run.  He can also drop throws into very tight windows.  It's going to be important for guys like J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore to make plays on the ball this week.  Good coverage isn't enough against a guy like Wilson.  He will still try to fit passes into tight windows.

Sunday night will be a great barometer for this team.


Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34

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Boston Sports Syndicate: First Test for Patriots Set for Sunday Night
First Test for Patriots Set for Sunday Night
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