Hamstrung Pats try to prevent rout in Arizona

Compromised Pats try to prevent rout in Arizona

Suddenly beset by key personnel losses, are the Patriots capable of keeping pace with the Cardinals tonight?

The two heavyweights bring Sunday’s slate of contests to a close at 8:30 p.m. ET. Mere hours before kickoff, oddsmakers at online sports book Bovada.lv list Arizona as a 9-point favorite. The over/under is 44.5.

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When the 2016 schedule was released, this matchup looked extremely even. Then Pats quarterback Tom Brady decided not to appeal his four-game Deflategate suspension to the U.S. Supreme Court. And, only 48 hours ago, the team downgraded top tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) from questionable to out.

There are other issues for the visitors, too, such injuries to offensive linemen Jonathan Cooper and Nate Solder. But the headline revolves around the absence of the ever-potent Brady-Gronkowski tandem. Those two will be sorely missed against Bruce Arians’ high-flying attack, which figures to challenge for the top spot in the NFC West again.

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Several months after setting franchise records in passing yards (4,671), passing touchdowns (35) and rating (104.6), signal-caller Carson Palmer returns to conduct the show in the desert. He’s joined by robust receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, not to mention a burgeoning star in tailback David Johnson. The second-year rusher could enjoy a huge evening vs. a New England defense that’s still figuring out how to integrate new end Chris Long into the mix while also trying to move beyond Chandler Jones’ departure.

Another individual under the spotlight shortly: Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady’s understudy finally snags his first NFL starting assignment. Yet 31 attempts over a two-season span won’t prepare him for the Cardinals’ incredibly active front four. As the pressure mounts, expect Garoppolo to check down to Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett constantly. Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and the other members of the Cards’ secondary do such a phenomenal job of keeping everything in front of them, though, that the Patriots’ chunk gains are bound to be all but nonexistent.

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