The Arizona Cardinals went from being a basement dweller in the NFC West to one of the more dominant teams in the league. Head coach Bruce Arians has worked wonders with the team, and after a disappointing end to their 2015-16 campaign, they have a golden opportunity to earn a win to kickstart their season on Sunday.
Arizona will play host to the New England Patriots under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football, but it will be a Patriots team without quarterback Tom Brady and without tight end Rob Gronkowski. The game is set for 8:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on NBC, with an online stream available via NBC Sports.
Brady will be missing the game due to a four-game suspension, while Gronkowski is dealing with an injury. Gronkowski was a surprise appearance on the team's injury report, but reports surfaced suggesting it was not serious and that he would play in Week 1.
But late Friday evening, it was revealed that Gronkowski did not make the trip with the Patriots and his status was downgraded to "out."
Gronkowski, 27, is one of the top tight ends in the league and has caught more than 150 passes for more than 2,200 yards and 20 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2011 and he won't do it this year, either. With the loss of Gronkowski, Jimmy Garoppolo, who is filling in for Brady, will lose his most consistent and reliable weapon in the passing game.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have their quarterback in Carson Palmer and they're hoping an offseason of rest will have him ready to go. Palmer, at 36 years old, definitely slowed down near the end of the regular season last year, and when the playoffs hit, he was completely off his game.
In two playoff games, Palmer threw a total of six interceptions. He looked drained and completely out of gas, and the Cardinals' defense was only able to do so much. But Palmer seems to be at 100 percent, the defense is ready to go, and the Cardinals have their sights set on taking the NFC West this season. Only the Seattle Seahawks realistically stand in their way.
First, the Patriots will stand in their way, however. New England's defense has stepped up big time in recent years, particularly when Brady isn't playing or isn't at his best. Barring unexpected brilliance from Garoppolo, Sunday's game should be headlined by Palmer versus the New England secondary, and Palmer's offensive line trying to keep him from taking some big hits early in the season.
The online stream from NBC Sports will require login credentials from a cable or satellite provider. As usual, the team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will be in the commentary booth for the Sunday Night Football matchup. Below is everything you need to watch the action on Sunday.
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