With all due respect to Carolina and Denver facing off, the marquee Week 1 matchup in the 2016 NFL season features the New England Patriots beginning life for four games without Tom Brady as they visit the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Night Football in what could easily be a Super Bowl LI preview. The Cards are solid favorites on NFL odds since the Pats won’t have Brady.
New England at Arizona Week 1 Odds, Free Pick & TV Info
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 4, 2016
Why Bet on New England?
You may not think it’s important to win Week 1, but 75 percent of the last 36 Super Bowl champions won their Week 1 game, which doesn’t bode particularly well for the Patriots. The only other time Brady has missed more than one game in a single season was in 2008, when he tore his ACL in Week 1 and missed the rest of the campaign. The Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassel under center but missed the playoffs.
The Patriots traded their best pass-rusher in end Chandler Jones to the Cardinals this offseason because New England didn’t think it could afford Jones when he became a free agent after the 2016 season. The Pats also think they might have a solid replacement in former No. 2 overall pick Chris Long, formerly of the Rams.
Long isn’t Jones, but he can do some of the same things. Coach Bill Belichick says Long, just like current Patriot Jabaal Sheard, hasn’t been used as an interior pass rusher before coming to New England, so it’s too early to tell if he could succeed there. But Belichick did say the Patriots have lined Long up on the inside, adding that he “falls into that category, same thing” as the type of player that the Patriots would use there.” In essence, the Patriots hope that one of their athletic defensive ends can blow past one of the slower linemen on the inside — but only in passing situations.
Offensively, the Pats have the NFL’s best tight end situation with Rob Gronkowski and new addition Martellus Bennett. Beginning with the 2010 season, the Patriots started to revolutionize the tight end position. The team a two tight-end look its primary offensive package with young tight ends and rising stars Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez versatile focal points of the attack. The duo was at its best in 2011: Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 169 catches, 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns – all NFL records for a tight end group. Gronk and Bennett can easily top those numbers if both stay healthy.
Why Bet on Arizona?
Many believe this is the best all-around roster in the NFL. The Cards might have the best running back situation in the NFL in the Johnsons — David and Chris. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said Chris Johnson and David Johnson are “both even”when it comes to running the ball.
“David is a little more comfortable (than Chris) in the passing game,” added Goodwin. “(Bruce Arians) has certain things in mind with David, slotted out in formations, out of the backfield. He gives you a little different element from Chris. But running the ball, they are both even.”
Meanwhile, expect the ex-Patriot Jones to really want to make a statement against his former team in this game. With the Patriots, Jones was asked to play in a variety of positions. Lining up all over the defensive line as a defensive end, outside linebacker and even a defensive tackle, Jones was required to learn multiple positions and was unable to focus on simply rushing the passer. Now Jones will almost exclusively be used as a right outside linebacker. Teammates believe Jones can get 20 sacks this season. In the final year of his contract, Jones has financial reasons to succeed. In 2015, he tallied 12.5 sacks, good for 5th in the league.
“There’s no doubt about it. He has that potential to be a 20-plus sack guy,” Patrick Peterson said.
My Free Pick
No Brady means no on Patriots. Give the points on NFL odds.