Week 1 will open without one of the Game’s best players. Tom Brady will begin his 4-Game suspension resulting from the DeflateGAte investiGAtion when the Patriots head west to play the Cardinals. The Cardinals are -6 point home favorites at with a total of 48.
The talk of DeflateGAte will likely subside in a couple of months when Brady has a few starts under his belt. For that, we will all be thankful. In the meantime, the Patriots must find a way to win Games with Jimmy GAroppolo starting in Brady’s place. GAroppolo is presumably in line to start each of those first 4 Games for New England. After traveling to Arizona in Week 1, New England will play 3 consecutive home Games versus Miami, Houston and Buffalo. This is an important stretch, considering two of the Four Games are inside the division, but the good news is that this is a relatively easy portion of the Schedule for GAroppolo to face, with a chance to win a couple of Games before Brady returns in Week 5.
GAroppolo has very limited numbers entering only his third year in New England. Thus far, he has completed 20 of 31 passing attempts for 188 yards, with 1 touchdown and no interceptions. He will, however, have some veteran teammates to throw to. From Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett at tight end to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola at wide receiver, GAroppolo should feel as comfortable as he possibly can while filling the big shoes left by Brady.
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The coaching staff should be able to keep the pressure off GAroppolo as much as possible with the backfield’s experieNCe, too. LeGArrette Blount and Brandon Bolden figure to be the top two backs available starting Week 1. Combined, they ACCounted for just over 900 yards rushing last season.
In Arizona it has been a similar formula in recent years, but the Cardinals have come up a little short when it matters most. Carson Palmer is coming off a tremendous season in which he threw for 4,671 yards, 35 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. Entering his 14th season in the NFL, fans have to be excited by the potential for what the Cardinals can do behind the arm of Palmer in 2016.
Arizona fans should be even more excited to know that every single player who caught a pass last season is currently on the roster. That includes LArry Fitzgerald and John Brown who each went over 1,000 yards on the year. Fitzgerald was spectacular in having something of a year of resurgeNCe catching 109 passes for 1,215 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Chris Johnson is also back in the backfield. He had something of a special season brewing in 2015 after many people thought he was washed up. Johnson ran for 814 on 196 carries before injuring his leg 11 Games into the season and missing the remainder. If Johnson can stay healthy, this Arizona offense should show flashes of being unstoppable, much like they did early last season.
Prediction: The Patriots benefit largely by having 3 of the first 4 at home while Tom Brady is out, but the toughest opponent they play in that stretch is Arizona. Playing the Cardinals will be tough with GAroppolo playing quarterback. It is tougher still that the Game is on the road. This would be a fantastic Game to watch if Brady were available. If GAroppolo plays well, this could be a very close Game, but that is difficult to bet on when one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history is the one sitting out. Cardinals 27, Patriots 20.