10. Arizona Cardinals (HOME – Week 12)
In his rookie season, Kyler Murray completed over 64% of his passes, threw for 20 touchdowns, and ran for four more. To commemorate his achievements, the NFL handed him the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Unfortunately, Murray also threw 12 interceptions and was sacked 48 times — tied with the Falcons’ Matt Ryan and the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson for the most in the league last year.
The Patriots as a team tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks last year with 47. They were No. 1 in the NFL in interceptions with 25 — the second-place Steelers were a full five picks behind them at 20.
What does all this mean?
It means that on paper at least, this game that features the Cardinals coming into Gillette Stadium and taking on the mighty Patriots should be a mismatch. Belichick presumably will cook up all kinds of confusing defensive packages to confound Murray and force him into the kind of mistakes that cost Sam Darnold his lone start against the Pats last year — and many sacks and interceptions will ensue.
The only problem for New England is that the vast majority of that defensive production last season — particularly in the sacks department — now plays elsewhere.
While it’s true that Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, and most of the Patriots secondary remains intact, the linebacking corps that featured the likes of Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy — arguably the two most impressive New England defenders outside of Gilmore and possibly McCourty in 2019 — is now completely different. Collins is a Lion and Van Noy is a Dolphin.
Arizona, on the other hand, got even stronger.
The Cardinals somehow managed to trick the Texans into gifting them DeAndre Hopkins. And while the AZ defense is still a bit questionable, the Cards drafted uber-athletic Isaiah Simmons to line up everywhere on the field. Plus, the Cardinals still have former Patriot Chandler Jones at defensive end wreaking havoc and collecting sacks like candy.
Make no mistake — this will be a difficult game. The Patriots should be able to pull out the win at home, but it will be close.