New England (0-0) at Arizona (0-0)
When: Sunday, September 11th 2016
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Time: 8:30 ET | TV: NBC
The New England Patriots will open the season without Tom Brady under center for the first time in 15 years as third-year quarterback Jimmy Garappolo will take on the Arizona Cardinals in his first career start. Brady will miss the first four games of the season for his involvement in the “Deflategate” scandal. “He has done a lot of little things to help me, whether it be on the field or off the field,” Garappolo said of Brady. “You spend so much time with the guy that you pick up little things that he does that you find helpful and you put it towards your own game.” Garappolo will be without their stud tight-end Rob Gronkowski as well due to a left hamstring injury. Gronk had 72 catches for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns last season to become the only tight end in league history to post double-digit TDs five times. Julian Edelman had 61 receptions and seven TDs through nine games before suffering a broken foot last season and could be Garappolo’s main target on Sunday. New England lost its best all-around defensive player last week when pass-rushing end Rob Ninkovich was suspended four games after testing positive for a banned substance.
Arizona finished the 2015 season at 13-3, but came up short against Carolina in the NFC Championship Game as QB Carson Palmer fell apart. Palmer had a monster season with 35 touchdowns, 4,671 yards and a 104.6 QBR, but turned the ball over six times against the Panthers. His receiving corps of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and speedster John Brown return. Fitzgerald has 109 catches for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns last season as the Cardinals led the league with 408.3 yards per game last season. Second-year running back David Johnson opens the season as the starter after scoring 13 touchdowns as a rookie and playing well down the stretch when Chris Johnson suffered a broken leg. Playmaking safely Tyrann Mathieu is back after tearing an ACL in his knee late last season and former Patriot Chandler Jones joins the Cardinals after recording a career-high 12.5 sacks last season for New England.
I would have given the Patriots somewhat of a shot at covering this game if Gronkowski was playing, but this game could get ugly real quick. Arizona will not miss a beat on offense, while Garappolo will struggle in his first start. I don’t care how good of a coach Bill Belichick is, his team will be no match for Arizona tonight.
Pick: Cardinals -7