The New England Patriots haven’t played a regular-season game without future Hall of Famer Tom Brady since 2008. But the Pats begin a four-game stretch without the suspended Brady on Sunday night when they visit an excellent Arizona team in a possible Super Bowl preview. Both the Cardinals and Patriots lost in their respective conference title games last year. The Cards are solid favorites in this game on NFL betting lines.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at the New England at Arizona Week 1 Betting Lines, Expert Pick & TV Info
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 9, 2016
Why Bet on New England?
If you believe in QB Jimmy Garoppolo, a 2014 second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois who is making his first NFL start. His charge is to keep the team afloat until Brady’s return to action on Oct. 9 in Cleveland. As a reminder of the less-than- ideal situation, the defiant Patriots have erected a large mural of Brady on the lighthouse at Gillette Stadium, with his No. 12 at the top.
Garoppolo is set to become just the fifth quarterback in the last 30 years to make his first regular-season start in a season-opening night game. Aaron Rodgers was the last (2008, win vs. Minnesota), with Philip Rivers (2006), David Carr (2002) and Brian Griese (1999) before him.
With Brady in control, often bailing out the unit with his calls at the line of scrimmage and frequently running plays at a fast pace that kept defenses off balance, New England has fielded one of the NFL’s most pass-heavy offenses in recent years. They threw on more than 62% of the snaps. It’s unlikely that Garoppolo will be expected to throw so much. He does have the league’s biggest matchup nightmare at his disposal in the person of Rob Gronkowski, who 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 teams.
But monitor the status of Gronkowski here. Gronkowski (hamstring) doesn’t know if he’ll be active for Sunday evening’s opener, and says it will come down to a coaching decision: “Yeah, it boils to a coaching decision, the medical team, and myself. We’ll all get together and collaborate and see where I’m at.”
The Pats will be without one of their best defenders in Rob Ninkovich. He was suspended the first four games of the season after the pass rusher was suspended for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Ninkovich was recovering from a torn triceps, and his availability for Week 1 was already uncertain. He had 6.5 sacks last year.
This game will be the Patriots’ first time ever facing the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Patriots have played two games at that stadium, Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLIX. The Patriots will be opening the season against an NFC team for the fifth time in team history and for the first time since 2000 when they opened the season at home against Tampa Bay on Sept. 3, 2000, a 21-16 loss in head coach Bill Belichick’s first ever game as head coach of the Patriots.
Why Bet on Arizona?
While the Patriots advanced to the AFC Championship Game last season, Arizona finished 13-3 and also came up one win short of the Super Bowl after losing to Carolina in the NFC title game. Quarterback Carson Palmer and all the key players on offense return on a team that led the NFL with 408.3 yards per game and bolstered its pass rush by acquiring Pro Bowl defensive end Chandler Jones from New England in the offseason.
Arizona was the NFL’s eighth-best rushing offense in 2015 (nearly 120 yards per game on the ground). Keeping free agent running back Chris Johnson in the backfield was an important move for Arizona this offseason if the club hopes to retain its No. 1 overall ranking in total offense from a year ago.
Jones should improve what had been a weak pass rush in 2015, and the Cards signed guard Evan Mathis to bolster what was already one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. The Cardinals’ biggest concern might be that Palmer is 36 years old and is coming off his best season in a decade, a feat of passing efficiency — and health — that might not be repeatable.
If there’s one thing to watch on defense for Arizona in this game it’s rookie Brandon Williams. The third-round pick out of Texas A&M was named the Cardinals’ starting cornerback opposite star Patrick Peterson by coach Bruce Arians on Wednesday. Williams will inherit a position briefly held last season by Justin Bethel, whom Coach Bruce Arians said “hasn’t practiced enough” to start due to injury. That means Williams will inherit the majority of the passes thrown at Cardinals cornerbacks. Last season, Peterson was thrown at 72 times. The other three defensive backs who lined up at cornerback — Bethel, Tyrann Mathieu and Jerraud Powers — were thrown at a combined 260 times.
My Expert Pick
Patriots are 3-12 ATS in their last 15 games on grass.
Patriots are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 road games.
Cardinals are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games in September.
Cardinals are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games in Week 1.
Give the points on NFL lines and go over the total.