Tom Brady won't be under center for the New England Patriots when they open their season on the road against the Arizona Cardinals, but the team is adamant they believe they're in good shape with Jimmy Garoppolo starting.
Brady will be serving the first game of a four-game suspension for his part in the DeflateGate scandal, or lying, or not listening to Roger Goodell ... or whichever reason the league decided to go with. The point is, the fight was no longer worth keeping up for Brady and he will be on the sidelines while Garoppolo manages the New England offense.
New England was set to enter Sunday's game against the Cardinals as a significant underdog, but when tight end Rob Gronkowski was also ruled out on Friday evening, the odds shifted even further in favor of the Cardinals.
Gronkowski is one of the top tight ends in the league, and he is essentially the best security blanket for any quarterback throwing him the ball. His loss to the offense most definitely hurts Garoppolo's chances to guide the Patriots to victory against a Cardinals team that was among the best in the league a season ago, especially on defense.
Arizona's offense is a strength led by Carson Palmer, though he struggled as the 2015 season went on. After finishing the regular season with 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, Palmer averaged just a 59.3 percent completion rate and had a total of four touchdowns and six interceptions in two playoff games.
He was banged up, he was tired and at 36 years of age, it's hard to imagine his gas tank improving. But after an offseason of rest and the promise of a new chance at Super Bowl glory, smart money is on Palmer being at his absolute best when the Cardinals take on the Patriots on Sunday.
Garoppolo will have some serious pitfalls to avoid on Sunday. Those pitfalls are named Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, two of the top defensive backs in the league. Peterson is not a cornerback to attack for any quarterback, while Mathieu is a consistent play-making threat. Brandon Williams, a convert from running back just two years ago, is the second cornerback when the Cardinals need a slot corner on the field, and he will be the one to attack.
This game will be interesting as it will feature Chandler Jones facing his old team for the first time since he was traded. Jones, a productive pass rusher and run stopper, was traded to the Cardinals out of the blue a season ago and he'll be facing the Patriots with plenty of motivation.
Sunday's game is the featured Sunday Night Football matchup, beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. It will be broadcast nationally on NBC, with a live stream available via NBC Sports, though it will require logging in via a satellite or cable television provider. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will be on commentary. Below is all you need to watch Sunday's action.
How to watch Patriots vs. Cardinals on Sunday
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth