BOSTON (CBS) -- It wasn't too difficult to make a Patriots prediction over the past 20 years, especially in the regular season. Picking the Patriots to win every weekend really wasn't a gigantic stretch.
Now here we are in 2020, and no one knows anything about anything anymore. Sure, the Patriots still have the best coach of all time in Bill Belichick, but after that, there's a whole lotta uncertainty regarding the New England football team.
Gone is Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr., and in his place will be Cam Newton, a pretty big change at the most important position on the field. Also gone are a handful of key defensive players, whether they departed via free agency or opted out because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And that pandemic thing adds a whole new wrinkle to just about everything regarding the 2020 NFL season.
But here we are, forcing our wonderful sports team to make predictions in an unpredictable season. Here is how the WBZ-TV and CBS Boston sports team sees the new-look New England Patriots faring in their season opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon.
Steve Burton, WBZ-TV
The Patriots are 6.5-point favorites over Miami on Sunday. The Pats should win this game, but it's going to be interesting to see how much the offense will change now that Cam Newton is their quarterback.
The Patriots' strongest unit is their defensive backs. These guys are hungry and talented and can not only make plays but score points.
Patriots 24, Dolphins 17
Dan Roche, WBZ-TV
Bill Belichick prepared all through training camp for this game, treating it like a college football opener. We all know that Tom Brady is gone and won't be quarterbacking in New England. However, in 2016 the Pats had Jimmy G. start the season as Brady was serving his Deflategate suspension. Garoppolo was 24/33 for 264 yards with a TD and 0 INT in a 23-21 win at Arizona.
Cam Newton should be able to put up similar numbers while the defense should do enough to contain Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins.
Patriots 27, Dolphins 17
Levan Reid, WBZ-TV
First game the season is always hard to predict and this year it's even harder. No preseason games. No joint practices. Plus, no fans to give that home field advantage.
So it's basically roll out and play and make adjustments along the way. That's why I like the Pats in this one.
Cam Newton wants to get off to a good start and Belichick wants to start the Tom Brady-less era correctly. Add to that some revenge from last year's Week 17 game and I have the Pats winning. Cam throws for 300 yards and J.C. Jackson has a pick-six.
Patriots 34, Dolphins 17
Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Pardon my French, but how the HECK is anyone supposed to make a prediction this year? We always know very little but now we somehow know even less.
That being said … Cam Newton will throw for 279 yards with one touchdown and another rushing touchdown. Ryan Fitzpatrick will throw for 321 yards and two touchdowns but also an interception to J.C. Jackson. Sony Michel will have a productive day, with 91 yards on 21 carries. Damiere Byrd will come through with the most explosive play of the day, a 67-yard reception up the right sideline in the third quarter. An errant kickoff by Jake Bailey will make things dicey late, but a fourth-down stop will secure a victory for the home team.
Patriots 23, Dolphins 17
Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
I have a better shot at predicting what my 4-year-old will throw a tantrum over than the first Patriots game of the season, but here we go.
I'm cautiously optimistic that the Patriots defense will still be a strong unit, mostly because Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson and Devin McCourty are still leading the charge. Ryan Fitzpatrick loves to sling the pigskin, so they'll get plenty of chances to pick him off in Week 1. I think we'll see a couple of Patriots interceptions in this one.
The offense is the great unknown though. Cam Newton is dynamic when he's healthy, an absolute monster of a quarterback, but he's also prone to make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. After 20 years of near-perfect quarterback play, that will be a bit of an adjustment for New England fans. Add in the fact that Julian Edelman is the only true threat at receiver, and it's going to take some time for this offense to mesh.
But I like James White to have a solid game, quickly becoming one of Newton's favorite targets, and the Patriots defense will do enough for a Week 1 victory.
Patriots 17, Dolphins 16
You can watch the Patriots kick off their 2020 season Sunday on WBZ-TV — the home of the New England Patriots! Coverage begins Friday night at 7 p.m. with Patriots All Access and kicks off Sunday at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay. The Patriots and the Dolphins square off at 1 p.m., and stick to WBZ-TV after the game for Cam Newton's first postgame press conference on Patriots 5th Quarter!
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