I'm sure Mosul will have his take and if Nicky can fix his stepping stool to reach his computer, he will probably add his input as well. Regardless, the NFL's season starts in three days and we're seven days from Miami's opening kickoff. This matchup between Miami and New England has as many question marks as we've seen between these two teams over the last several years. So what do we have to look forward to?
1) New Schemes: Not only will Miami start the season with a new offensive system, but New England is expected to come out of the gates with a new 4-3 defensive scheme, which remains unconfirmed by Bill Belichick. In fact, you can find a defensive depth chart for both the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses for New England on many websites. For Miami, they've graduated from the stone age when the forward pass was first legalized in 1906. In fact, rumor has it Dan Henning planned Miami's passing plays around George Parratt's first pass of the Ohio League, the predecessor to the NFL. Unfortunately, much like Donovan McNabb's gaffe about not knowing the rules for overtime, a source previously told me that Dan Henning also thought the rules for the forward pass, which resulted in a turnover if it fell incomplete, was still in effect as of 2010. So how will Miami's offense move forward in the new era under Brian Daboll? We'll have to wait and see.
2) New England's Defensive Line vs Miami's Offensive Line: Yes, Miami's OL has been highly criticized this preseason. Strangely enough, it appeared as if most teams had problems on the OL this preseason, specifically with pass protection. What I find particularly intriguing in this matchup is how Miami can handle Albert Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork in the middle of a 4-3 defense. The pressure to handle them will fall on Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey, and Vernon Carey. Haynesworth saw very little action in the preseason and when he finally did get on the field last week, he appeared out of shape after just over a dozen plays. It only takes a handful of plays for Haynesworth to make his mark on the game, but he has been unimpressive so far and the Patriots have yet to generate a pass rush from their DEs or OLBs. If New England is going to pressure Miami, it'll likely be from the inside DL.
3) Injured Players Returning for New England: Not only has Haynesworth appeared out of shape, but New England has been dealing with injuries to starting RG Dan Connelly and CB Leigh Bodden. Bodden in particular may be the most important return for New England. Outside of Devin McCourty, New England's CBs have been unimpressive and rather thin on depth. Teams are not required to submit an injury report during the preseason so there is no information on what injury Bodden suffered and how well he has recovered, but he has not been on the field since week 2 of the preseason.
4) How the Newcomers Change the Game: Most notably on Miami's sign, the Dolphins have made a big adjustment at RB with the acquisition of Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. Reggie Bush won't see 25 touches per game, but his presence will allow Miami to take advantage of mismatches, especially in the passing game as Miami may focus on trying to get Bush lined up against slower LBs. For New England, Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth have been their big acquisitions. So far, neither of them have looked to be ready to make a large impact on the game. Not only has Haynesworth been out of shape and off the field, but Ochocinco has been limited to 2 receptions during the preseason. He has not looked to be on the same page as Tom Brady. The Patriots still have Deion Branch and Julian Edelman at WR, but Branch too has been unimpressive thus far in preseason. Ochocinco will be the key for this offense to take pressure off of Wes Welker. Fortunately for the Patriots, they still have two very good TEs and some QB named Tom Brady.
5) New Kickoff Rule: Not that it will add more excitement to the game, but the new kickoff rule will limit the amount of kickoff returns. This is very good news for teams like Miami and San Diego. That right there is a small victory.
6) The NFL Just Confirmed that FGs will now be worth more points than a TD: This makes Miami instant Super Bowl favorites.