The Patriots earned a workman-like victory over the Arizona Cardinals, shades of what happened in 2001. While Jimmy Garoppolo isn't going to replace Tom Brady at QB, that was very reassuring to see Jimmy play well at QB. There is a lot to like with the Patriots on both sides of the ball, hopefully they can manage at least a 2-2 start to win the AFC East although a 3-1 start is looking likely now. The Patriots have a chance to establish early dominance in the division with 3 consecutive home games and 2 against divisional opponents.
Jimmy Garoppolo makes spectacular debut: The Patriots needed a good game from Jimmy Garoppolo to beat the Arizona Cardinals and he did more than that. Jimmy G looked very comfortable back there. Jimmy went 24 for 33, passing for 264 yards and a touchdown to Chris Hogan. There was the one ugly turnover in the 2nd quarter that led to the Cardinals first score, so there's an area he could look to improve. Garoppolo took advantage of rookie CB Brandon Williams on two notable plays, a 37-yard TD to Hogan and a 28-yard catch and run to Malcolm Mitchell. The games now get tougher now that teams have regular season tape on him, so he needs to continue to grind and prepare for what's ahead.
Injury Report: The Patriots did not have Nate Solder and Rob Gronkowski on offense, which makes the victory more impressive. Overall I thought Marcus Cannon and Cameron Fleming hung in there although both had issues. Cannon was taken to the locker room on a cart after the game, but the whole story turned out to be a nothing burger. Solder and Gronk are injuries that the team will be monitoring moving forward. On defense, the Patriots suffered a minor injury with LB Dont'a Hightower. Hightower finished the game, so it's not a big deal and we know he can play though immense pain.
AFC East Standings: Patriots 1-0, Jets 0-1, Dolphins 0-1, Bills 0-1.
The Patriots won a closely-fought game against a contending team while the other three teams faltered against their opponents in rather agonizing fashion. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins all faced teams I expect to be in the 2016 postseason. All three losses were by margins of 1, 6, and 2 points. While the Patriots are in first place after 1 game, they can't look too much at the standings for now.
In the AFC, I expect the top three teams in the AFC North to be the biggest threat to the Patriots in the playoffs. Later this season, we'll see how they fare with the Bengals and Steelers coming up in Weeks 6 and 7. The Chiefs are always dangerous and I'm not ruling out the Texans or Broncos either.
We're on to Miami: The Patriots' next opponent will be the Miami Dolphins at home. The Dolphins played the Seattle Seahawks tough, although they had the benefit of a hobbled Russell Wilson. The Dolphins are very adept at causing pressure up the middle with Ndamukong Suh. Their offensive line is littered with high-price talent at both tackle spots and rookie Laremy Tunsil. who's playing left guard for them. The Dolphins, like any other AFC East opponent is a very tough team to beat.
The Patriots need to be able to block up inside to allow Jimmy G to have an encore performance and allow LeGarrette Blount to bust out some chunk yard runs to keep the Dolphins pass rush honest. This is a game the Patriots are expected to win now, so there is more pressure on them than when they entered University of Phoenix Stadium.