Coming off back-to-back losses, the New England Patriots’ playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. So, in order to position themselves for a postseason run they will need to start playing some better football — and start winning some games. The first opportunity will come on Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
In order to get a better understanding of who the Patriots will be up against in Week 14, we exchanged questions with Seth Cox of Pats Pulpit’s sister site Revenge of the Birds — the SB Nation community for all things Cardinals.
Here is what Seth told us about the upcoming game.
1. How confident are you in Kyler Murray as the team’s franchise quarterback? He’s clearly got game-changing talent, but thought it was interesting how the team rallied behind Colt McCoy in his starts.
I don’t really worry much about the latter part. They rallied so well behind him that they were embarrassed on national TV by the San Francisco 49ers coming off their big win over this Los Angeles Rams squad.
On the other aspect I think we are starting to come to a point where the question is not is Kyler Murray a franchise quarterback, but what type of franchise quarterback?
Is he a guy in the class of guys who can elevate a team or is he in the class of guys who is elevated by the talent around him?
There is not much wrong with the latter, outside of Tom Brady, even those guys who elevate everyone around them only win a Super Bowl maybe once or twice (which is great as well).
Meanwhile, if you are the elevated player you typically need the situation to be close to ideal to compete for a Super Bowl.
Murray may be a guy who has big numbers and years, but needs the right situation for it to result in being a contender.
So, that’s where we are with that situation.
Call it the Kirk Cousins conundrum.
2. DeAndre Hopkins is the skill player grabbing headlines this week, but is there another offensive threat for the Cardinals who Patriots fans should keep an eye out for this week?
For the Cardinals it’ll be what James Conner and the running game do to relieve some of the pressure off of Murray, Hopkins and the Arizona Cardinals passing game.
If Conner can get going running the ball, he also offers something in the pass game and gives you a similar type of threat to your own Rhamondre Stevenson.
People know Conner though, so maybe we talk about Greg Dortch. Dortch in the slot has been a big time player when getting snaps.
Before Rondale Moore was healthy, Dortch was getting snaps and now that Moore is banged up again hopefully Dortch is healthy enough to help out.
He works the slot, underneath routes and is just a tough SOB.
3. Arizona has a versatile and aggressive defensive front. How would you break down their scheme and personnel for an out-of-conference fan who doesn’t get to catch many Cardinals games?
That’s a very kind way to say they lack a lot of talent so they have to manufacture things.
J.J. Watt is having a Pro Bowl-worthy season and Zach Allen is finally reaching his potential but after that it is lean. The Cardinals like to flex between three or four down linemen and bring in two to four backers at the same time; just depending on situations. Then Vance Joseph likes to give you different pressure looks.
They use a plethora of blitzers in Isaiah Simmons, Zaven Collins or even their safeties in Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson.
All that said, it hasn’t been great at stopping the run or the pass and it could be a good get-healthy game for the New England Patriots offense and Mac Jones.
4. How has the Cardinals’ secondary responded to being without top corner Byron Murphy the past few weeks? Has anyone stepped up in his absence? Or are there weak links the Patriots could look to exploit on Monday Night?
That has actually been one of the semi-bright spots on this dreadful season.
Murphy was looking like a legitimate cornerback one, and then the team really liked veteran journeyman Antonio Hamilton’s work in training camp. He had a horrible accident where he burned himself cooking. That led to second year man Marco Wilson getting more time and he has played well.
That all happens because they have a borderline great safety duo as well helping out because they get little to nothing from the pass rush.
If Murphy can come back at some point this season, it could be fun to see this group finally at full health.
All that being said, the lack of pass rush really hurts this team and their coverage unit. I’m not kidding when I say that there are times when even bring five rushers, a quarterback will have three plus seconds to make a play.
So, everyone gets semi-exploited so take your pick! It could be that game.
5. Our pals at DraftKings Sportsbook have Arizona as 1.5-point underdogs at home. Do you think this is a fair projection? And how can the Cardinals pull off an upset?
The reason I say that is because I think we see the same Cardinals offense, they’ll put up around 23-25 points. The Cardinals defense will either give up 30+ or the Patriots offense will struggle, likely of their own doing and will allow the Cardinals to win this game.
I honestly don’t know what to make of this game, so I’m going to be a homer and pick the Cardinals in an upset 24-21. Though a Pats 31-23 win wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
Good luck and good health to the Patriots in this one.
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