New England Patriots(0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals(0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: Sunday, September 11th 2016 at 8:30PM EST
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NE +6 / AZ -6
The New England Patriots head west to Glendale to take on the Arizona Cardinals in a week one matchup of two teams that lost in their respective conference championships game a season ago.
One surprising reason for the Cardinals demise in the NFC Championship game was the turnover prone play of quarterback Carson Palmer, who threw four interceptions and lost fumbles against the Carolina Panther defense on way to his team suffering a 49-15 collapse in Charlotte. This year Palmer returns all of his skill position weapons from the Arizona offense that ranked first in the NFL in 2015, including budding star running back David Johnson and a trio of threats at wide receiver – Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Josh Brown. Last year was Johnson’s first in the league after being drafted by Arizona in the third round coming out of Northern Iowa, and once he took over the starting running back position in week thirteen he never looked back and now finds himself as one of the highest rated backs in the league based upon his run/catch talent and the fact that has the golden opportunity of being the bell cow back for one of the best teams in the NFL.
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On the other side of the ball the Cardinals used the offseason to upgrade their defensive line after finishing 26th in the league in sacks with just 27 in 2015. They used their first round pick to draft Robert Nkemdiche out of Ole Miss and made a great trade with their opponent this week by getting Chandler Jones from the Patriots for the minimal cost of just a second round pick, a stellar deal for a sack specialist on the precipice of solidifying himself as an NFL star. The true highlight of the Arizona defense is their secondary led by two of the best in the league at their position, cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu, both of which were drafted out of LSU within the past five seasons and look to be the future in not only the Cardinals defensive backfield, but also the NFC Pro Bowl’s as well.
The Arizona defense is undoubtedly glad that they will be going up against Jimmy Garoppolo this weekend instead of Tom Brady, who will miss the first four games of the season serving his sham four game suspension for daring to stand up to dictator Goodell. Along with Brady, the Patriots offense will also be missing due injury running back Dion Lewis, wide receivers Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell along with Shaq Mason, Sebastian Vollmer and Tre Jackson long the offensive line. The three injuries on the line are the most troublesome, especially considering how poorly they played as a group against Denver in the AFC Championship game when they allowed Brady to be hit 20 times, the most any one quarterback had in any NFL game last season. Watching the line become turnstiles in a championship game was déjà vu all over again for Patriots fans, bringing back memories of the 1997 Super Bowl loss to the Packers when Reggie White abused Max Lane all game long, followed by the blowing of the perfect season against the Giants in February of 2008 when Matt Light played the worst game of the career and killed any chance of his team finishing off what would have been the greatest season in NFL history.
New England is in much better shape defensively returning the core of young talent including linebackers Jamie Collins and Don’t’a Hightower along with safety Devin McCourty and cornerback Malcolm Butler. The Patriots in recent weeks also made a couple of trades to try and continue their history of reclamation projects of unwanted players, bringing in former #6 pick in the draft Barkevious Mingo and just this week trading with Philadelphia for 2015 second round pick Eric Rowe. New England fans will be hoping both work out the way Cory Dillion and Randy Moss did and not at all like Albert Haynesworth or Chad Johnson turned out.
Both teams have near identical inferiority when it comes to against the spread gambling trends for this week’s matchup, with the Patriots 1-6 against the line in their last seven road games while the Cardinals are an equally bad 1-6 in their last seven home games versus the point spread. Neither team has had much success covering the spread while playing on grass either, as New England has gone 3-12 in their last fifteen games on such a surface while Arizona is just 3-9 in their last twelve on a non-turf field.
With four games to start the season without Brady every member of the Patriots will have to step up their game in his absence to offset such a drastic loss of talent. Maintaining home field advantage is paramount to New England’s postseason success, especially considering they have gone just 1-4 in their last five playoff games away from the friendly confines of Foxboro Stadium. Unfortunately for the Patriots it doesn’t look like they will be starting the season with a win on Sunday night against Arizona, as the loss of Brady along with a variety of injures on the offensive side will likely be too much for New England to overcome, especially on the road against a talent-laden team as well rounded as the Cardinals. The Patriots defense may be able to hold its own for a while, but the thought of an untested Jimmy Garoppolo trying to throw past the dominance of Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu does not install a whole lot of confidence in New England fans and will likely be the teams undoing Sunday night against the Cardinals.
Mike M’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Arizona -6
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