Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week One game between the Patriots and Dolphins:
Patriots WRs Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco vs. Dolphins CBs Vonate Davis and Sean Smith
Everyone might be picking the Patriots to exit South Florida with a win in Week One, but to do so, their receivers will need to get separation from a couple very good, up-and-coming corners.
The Pats' offensive juggernaut in 2010 rolled through the NFL, including two wins over Miami. In the spread offense that focused on short-to-intermediate passes, the receivers were able to catch balls from Tom Brady in space and add yards after the catch.
Ochocinco and Branch likely will spend most of their time on the outside with Wes Welker in the slot, and the pair will get manned up by two very physical corners. Davis had 12 passes defensed and one interception last season, and has gotten plenty of respect around the league. "Vontae is fast, he's a very good athlete, he's big, he's got good size, he's physical, tackles well, good run-force player, good coverage player. I don't think he has too many limitations physically," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said.
On the other side, Smith, who regained his starting job last season, is one of the bigger corners in the league at 6-3, 214 pounds, and once he starts holding on to interceptions, the Dolphins could have one of the league's elite CB tandems.
Ochocinco had a touchdown in the preseason, but seemed to still need some time to get on the same page as Tom Brady. Branch didn't even have a catch in the preseason.
The Patriots have plenty of weapons, as Welker and TE Aaron Hernandez should often find themselves in favorable spots, but if Davis and Smith find a way to take Ochocinco and Branch out of the Pats' game plan, Brady will have to adapt and find another way to score points.