Could the first Sunday night game of the NFL season be a preview of Super Bowl LI in Houston?
It’s very conceivable as the New England Patriots are +625 second-favourites to win the Super Bowl on Sports Interaction’s NFL odds and the Arizona Cardinals are +1100 fourth-favourites. The Cards catch a break here as they host the Patriots without New England having star quarterback Tom Brady.
New England Patriots vs. Arizona Cardinals
Point spread: Cardinals -6
Date: Sunday, Sept. 11, 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
New England Patriots
Brady’s four-game suspension officially started on Saturday and he can’t be with the team at all during it, so he will have to work out on his own. He’ll be eligible to play on Oct. 9 in Cleveland. On the bright side, this is the only road game in New England’s first four. Sunday will be the first NFL start for Jimmy Garoppolo, a 2014 second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois. He has gotten into 11 regular-season games in his career and is 20-for-31 passing for 188 yards, a touchdown and no picks. Needless to say, he never played in any meaningful game. In the preseason, Garoppolo completed 66.7 percent of his passes with a touchdown and interception. His backup for now is third-round rookie Jacoby Brissett.
New England will be without one of its best defensive players in the first four games due to suspension as well in defensive end Rob Ninkovich. He might not have played the first couple of games regardless after suffering a triceps injury during training camp. The 32-year-old Ninkovich has played in 116 consecutive games (including playoffs) for the Patriots since signing with the team as a free agent on Aug. 2, 2009. Ninkovich had 52 tackles and 6.5 sacks last year. The Patriots will start Chris Long in his place. He was signed this offseason after spending his first eight seasons with the Rams.
This is New England’s first regular-season game ever at the University of Phoenix Stadium, but it played in Super Bowl XLII (lost to Giants) and XLIX (beat Seahawks) there. The Patriots were 3-6 against the spread (ATS) on the road in 2015, including playoffs.
One of Arizona’s big offseason moves was acquiring defensive end Chandler Jones in a trade with New England. Jones had a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2015. That was a weakness for Arizona as it ranked 20th in the NFL with 36 sacks last year.
Like the Patriots, the Cardinals lost in last season’s conference title game. Arizona was 13-3 in the regular season and won the NFC West. The Cards beat Green Bay in the divisional round and then were crushed by Carolina 49-15 in the NFC Championship Game. QB Carson Palmer had a fantastic season but was terrible in that game with four interceptions and two lost fumbles.
One can make an argument that Arizona has the best overall roster in the NFL, but it all depends in keeping Palmer healthy. When Palmer starts, the Cardinals are 20–4, counting playoffs, the past two seasons. When he doesn’t, they are 5-6. Palmer is +1200 on NFL MVP odds Award this year. NFL odds have him at +1000 to lead the league in passing yards. Arizona is +900 to be the highest-scoring team in the league. The Cards were No. 2 last year in averaging 30.6 ppg.
Meanwhile, defensive back Tyrann Mathieu will play in Week 1. He was playing like an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2015 before tearing his ACL in Week 15. Mathieu and Patrick Peterson anchor perhaps the NFL’s best secondary and are a big reasons why Arizona forced 33 turnovers last year, No. 2 in the NFL. The Cardinals scored 140 points off those turnovers.
Arizona was 3-6 ATS at home last year, including playoffs.
Patriots vs. Cardinals Prediction
New England is 1-5 ATS in its past six road games, and that’s with Brady. Arizona has covered its past five September games. Take the Cardinals to cover in the first Sunday Night Football game of the year- before the spread potentially reaches 7. Go over the total.