A new NFL season finally arrives for the Arizona Cardinals, who were left to stew in their questions after the trouncing defeat they suffered to the Carolina Panthers. Going into a new year, the Cardinals could still be the top NFC contender for the right to play for the Lombardi Trophy come February if all things go well. This week they get a very fortunate change in their opponent.
No Brady Or The Bunch
Yes, the Patriots are without Tom Brady for the first four games of the season this year. The Deflategate saga finally came to a sudden, but long time coming, end as the now four time Super Bowl champion will be forced away from the game and his teammates until week 5. However he isn’t the only Patriot that is going to be missing from the starting lineup. It was reported that Rob Gronkowski was not brought on the plane with the rest of the team on the trip out to Arizona, leaving new replacement quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo without maybe the most reliable pass catcher on the Patriots. Add onto that, the Patriots will be without two starting offensive linemen with other injuries. Those two beingNate Solder, a tackle, and recently traded Jonathan Cooper who came to the team from Arizona of all places in return for Chandler Jones. The starting quarterback, tight end, left tackle and right guard will all be missing for the first game against the Cardinals defense, making Garoppolo’s first game a potential train wreck.
Return of the Badger
Just nine months ago, Tyrann Mathieu suffered another major knee injury in his young career. The ability of Mathieu to be a jack of all trades safety that can blitz, tackle, cover and intercept the ball makes him one of the most vital parts of what the Cardinals try to do on defense. Going into week one, Bruce Arians says that Mathieu is back to where he was before the injury against he Eagles. Mathieu on the other hand seems more precarious about the status of the knee. It has already been reported that there will be a brace on the surgically repaired knee but it will be smaller than the previous one he had after the first surgery. The main fear is that Mathieu may push off on the knee looking for that extra explosion only to have it go out on him again. The injury against the Eagles was a non contact injury, meaning just another step could blow out that ligament again if he is not careful. The health of the All-Pro safety is going to be a key factor not just in this game, but in the season for the Cardinals
How Much Does Fitz Have Left
The man is a future Hall of Fame player without question. He will go down as the first Arizona Cardinal to be inducted in Canton unless Anquan Boldin retires first but his induction is a little more unclear. That being said, one has to wonder just how far away that final walk into the sunset is for Fitzgerald. The man has a current streak of 173 games with a catch, which is the longest in the NFL and he put on a show against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Playoffs. Going into this season however, Fitzgerald has been nursing a small MCL sprain in his knee. The last game of the preseason did not see Fitz in action as a precaution but the body seems to be wearing down and his speed isn’t what it used to be with Michael Floyd and John Brown stepping into bigger roles and J.J. Nelson also earning himself some more time on the field thanks to his speed down the field. It isn’t known if Fitzgerald will end this year and walk away from the game, but it will be interesting to see just how much he has left in him for maybe his last chance at a Super Bowl.
Prediction: New England 14 – Arizona 31
The game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium. Kickoff will start at 5:30 PM Arizona time this Sunday the 11th on NBC.