The Arizona Cardinals are preparing to take on a New England Patriots squad that is looking a whole lot different this season
While watching film of their week 12 opponent, the Arizona Cardinals must have been a bit surprised. For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention this season, this is not your grandfather’s version of the New England Patriots. Well, perhaps that’s going back in time a bit too far, but this is certainly not the team that has been dominating the AFC since the early 2000’s.
Much to the chagrin of their fans, this year’s Patriots will carry an unattractive 4-6 record into their matchup with the Cards this Sunday. In case you’re wondering, six-time Super Bowl winner Bill Belichick is still the head coach of this now-struggling franchise. What can Arizona expect when they venture into New England’s Gillette Stadium this weekend?
The biggest change, of course, is that future Hall of Famer Tom Brady is no longer the quarterback of the Patriots. The 43-year old has taken his talents, and six Super Bowl rings, to South Florida. Brady is now the starting signal-caller for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who just happen to be coached by old friend Bruce Arians.
Brady’s replacement in New England is Cam Newton, the former leader of the Carolina Panthers. Putting it simply, the three-time Pro Bowler is not playing well for the organization that acquired him back in July. Brady’s humongous shoes are extremely difficult to fill, and Newton appears to be finding that out the hard way.
In his nine starts for the Pats (Newton missed one game after testing positive for COVID-19), the 31-year old has thrown for 1900 yards and just four touchdowns, while tossing seven interceptions. Newton’s contributions to New England have come mostly on the ground, thanks to the nine rushing scores he’s been credited with. That number is the second-highest among NFL passers, topped only by the 10 rushing touchdowns that Arizona’s Kyler Murray has registered thus far in 2020.
The Patriots rushing game is led by second-year runner Damien Harris, who has accumulated 514 yards and is averaging a hefty 5.3 yards per carry. Running back James White leads the club in receptions (33), while former Cardinals wideout Damiere Byrd leads the squad in receiving yards (469).
On defense, free agent safety addition Adrian Phillips leads New England with 68 tackles. Defensive end Chase Winovich, a third-round draft selection in 2019, leads the unit with a measly 2.5 sacks. As a team, the Pats have taken down opposing quarterbacks a total of just 13 times this fall.
Despite the uninspiring campaign that the Patriots are having, the traveling Cards have been installed as just slight favorites (2.5 points) by the Las Vegas oddsmakers. Nevertheless, Kliff Kingsbury‘s group badly needs a victory after their 28-21 loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Thursday. That pressure will work in Arizona’s favor, and result in a 23-20 road triumph for the playoff-seeking Redbirds.