With football season officially underway, lets take a look at the most anticipated matchup this Sunday.
Key Injuries for New England to start off the season.
The Patriots knew going into this week they would be without players such as running back Dion Lewis and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, both of whom are on IR. Now there are reports that New England star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, will be out after suffering from a nagging hamstring injury that he sustained in mid-August. Without the threat of the Gronk-Bennett duo, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will have an extremely tough time with the kind of pressure he will face versus the Cardinals and their stout defensive unit. Even if Gronkowski is able to go on Sunday night, how effective will he really be if not 100 percent?
Arizona has no real weaknesses as of yet.
The Cardinals will be running with a top five defense this season, to go along with one of the most dynamic offenses in football. Add in the fact that Arizona is as hungry as any team since falling short of their Super Bowl expectations from last season. This fan base will show out for their team, so expect it to get a little noisy and uncomfortable for the untested Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Head coach Bruce Arians knows how to prepare his players, and everyone of them will be ready to pounce off of every mistake New England makes.
How New England can win
Offensively, expect Belichick to get the ball out of Jimmy’s hands as quickly as possible. With New England’s biggest weakness being there offensive line, all the Patriots should be hoping for are solid five to six yard gains that move the chains. Long methodical drives could possibly derail any momentum the Cardinals get from their home crowd. Even though Garoppolo is a bit more mobile in the pocket than Tom Brady, it would not be wise to test the decision making of their young quarterback. James White, D.J Foster, Julian Edleman and Martellus Bennett have to be prepared to make their impact plays after the catch.
On the other side of the ball, it is critical that the Patriots defense puts Palmer on his back and slows down the speed of the game as much as possible. Carson showed teams in the NFC championship that he can let himself become rattled with enough pressure. The Patriots have the secondary to contain Arizona’s deep threats, John and Jaron Brown, yet may lack the depth to deal with players like Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. With so many options, if Palmer is allowed to much time sitting in the pocket then Arizona’s offense will likely go for 30+ points. Something New England will have a tough time matching on the other side of the ball.
How Arizona can win
The right amount of balance between pressuring the other team’s defense, along with taking care of the ball will be the biggest key for the Cardinals. Arizona loves running a fast paced offense that consists of a lot of down the field throws. Which is fine, even against a top ten defense like New England. The only problem could be the mental mistakes of forced turnovers that could give Garoppolo and the Patriots good field position. So its crucial to remember that sometimes a punt downfield, is better than an off-balance pressured throw that could end up in the hands of the other team.
Defensively, the Cardinals need to let their front seven run wild. Getting to the ball should be easy against a rookie(ish) quarterback behind an already depleted o-line. The addition of Chandler Jones could very well be the deciding factor of the game, because who isn’t ready to get after the team that just traded you away. With that the Cardinals have a talented, ball-hawking secondary that will allow their defensive front to apply the all sorts of pressure. Arians is an aggressive coach, so expect an aggressive defense come Sunday night.
Matchup to Watch: Patriots LBs vs Cardinals RBs
David Johnson is a top running back in this league, he can do just about anything the Cardinals ask of him. Jaime Collins and Dont’a Hightower form one of the more underrated linebacker duo in the league. Hightower being the run stopper of the team, while Collins is your not-so-average NFL athletic freak that has the ability to range all over the field. Both teams go in with high expectations for these players, making this one of the more intriguing match-ups for this showdown in the Desert.
Arizona 27 – New England 16