The New England Patriots have won seven straight titles in the AFC East, and they may do it again, but they will have to overcome some absences to do so. To start with, they are without Tom Brady for the first four games of the season, as he sits out his Deflategate suspension, but now they are also going to be without their top pass-catching threat as they take on the Arizona Cardinals in the Sunday night NFL season opener, taking place at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ at 8:30 PM ET on NBC. BetAnySports customers can watch the game and then also place bets while it is happening, as they take advantage of the phenomenon known as Live Betting Ultra.
Brady, who had 36 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions last season, will be available for the fifth game of the season as this team visits the Cleveland Browns. Taking over quarterback until then is Jimmy Garoppolo, who has thrown only 31 passes in his NFL career. Things may have been a little bit easier for the third-year man, had New England been able to implement its two-tight end formation, which had been very successful in the past.
But Rob Gronkowski has a hamstring injury, and inasmuch as he is not 100% for this one, it came down to a coaching decision that leaves him out of this game.
The Cardinals averaged 29 points per game last season en route to a 13-3 record, then were beaten by the Carolina Panthers in the NFC championship game. They appear to have all hands on deck, including quarterback Carson Palmer, who averaged 8.7 yards per attempt and threw for 35 touchdowns last season.
In the NFL Sunday night betting odds posted on this game by the people at BetAnySports, the Cardinals are favored by a lot of points:
Gronkowski had 72 catches for 1176 yards last season, so there is certainly a big void. The other tight end is Martellus Bennett, who became very prolific during his time with the Chicago Bears. Coach Bill Belichick is going to have to design something for his young quarterback on the basis of some adjustments on offense. LaGerrette Blount had 703 yards on the ground last season, but the dual threat out of the backfield, Dion Lewis, is out for the first six games. Garoppolo has short-range targets like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola to work with, but obviously he is not as resourceful as Brady.
BetAnySports customers may remember what happened when Brady missed the entire season some years ago, and they had to turn to Matt Cassel, who had never been a starting quarterback anywhere. They did indeed adjust, and won eleven games that season. Can the same thing happen here?
Last season, the Patriots had 49 sacks, compared to only 36 for Arizona. But that statistic might be flipped this season, as Chandler Jones, who registered 12.5 sacks for New England, has moved on to Arizona. Chris Long, the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long, will be one of those people trying to pick up the slack at the defensive end position, but it’s a step down. And Rob Ninkovich, who had 6.5 sacks for Belichick’s defense last year, is under suspension and will not play.
Arizona has playmakers in the secondary, to be sure. One of them, Tyrann Mathieu, is trying to come back from a knee injury, but when he is near 100%, he is All-Pro-caliber. So is cornerback Patrick Peterson, so Garoppolo may have to look in the direction of rookie Brandon Williams, who will see plenty of action at one of the corners.
On offense, the expectation is that second-year pro David Johnson, who had 1038 yards from scrimmage as a rookie, will be the new featured back. The offensive line did a very solid job of protecting Palmer last season, allowing him to be sacked only 25 times.
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