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Week 14 Preview: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
December 9, 2022 at 6:15 am ET

Week 14 Preview: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals(PHOTO: New England linebackers Matthew Judon and Ja'Whaun Bentley roar as they celebrate one of many quarterback sacks, this one in the first half. The New England Patriots hosts the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on Nov 6, 2020. [The Providence Journal / Kris Craig])

🕑 Read Time: 4 minutes

The Cardinals present a game the Patriots could win.  Their Defense is one of the worst in the league giving up 26.8 points per game (31), allowing 356.2 yards per game, and Expected Points Added (20).  The EPA is an advanced metric that measures how a team does on each individual play.  Arizona is better on offense, scoring 22 points per game, and accumulating 356.2 yards a game, and their Offensive EPA is ranked 20th.   The scoring difference is -57 (27) and a Turnover difference of +1 (13).

How will Bill Belichick and the defense contain Kyler Murray?  If allowed to, Murray can run around and buy more time or scramble and shred the defense.   What will the defense do to slow down DeAndre Hopkins?  They have enough depth at WR that the Patriots will not be able to just double-team Hopkins.  When on Offense, how will the Patriots’ o-line handle the blitz-happy Cardinals?

Offense

STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
QB Kyler Murray Colt McCoy Trace McSorley Q
RB James Conner Keaontay Ingram Corey Clement Darrel Williams IR
WR DeAndre Hopkins A.J. Green Antoine Wesley IR
WR Marquise Brown Greg Dortch Q    
WR Rondale Moore Q Robbie Anderson
TE Trey McBride Stephen Anderson Zach Ertz IR  
LT Josh Jones D.J. Humphries IR Joshua Miles IR
LG Max Garcia Rashaad Coward Cody Ford Justin Pugh IR
C Billy Price Sean Harlow Rodney Hudson IR
RG Lecitus Smith Wyatt Davis Sean Harlow Will Hernandez IR
RT Kelvin Beachum Josh Jones  
         

Quarterback

You need to start with the QB, Kyler Murray.  He presents huge problems for the Patriots’ defense.  The Patriots have not been able to stop the mobile/running QB.  Murray has rushed for 420 yards this year an average of 6.9 a carry and three TDs.

Games Att  Comp    %     YPR      Yards/G                TD          INT         Sacks

Murray       10      258   389    66.3  6.1          235.9      14         7              25

McCoy         2       50       71    70.4   6.4       228          1          1             5

Both McCoy and Murray throw the ball at a high rate of completions.  This will put a lot of pressure on the Patriots’ secondary.

Offensive Line

The Achilles heal of the Cardinals has been the Offensive line.  They just haven’t been healthy.  Starting Left Tackle DJ Humphries has been lost for the year.  Josh Jones has stepped in for him with 33 yo, 11-year veteran Kelvin Beachum.  Backups at both tackle positions are thin.  The interior O line is playing all backups.  Starters Justin Pugh (LG) Rodney Hudson (C) Will Hernandez (RT) are all on IR.  Replacing them are Max Garcia, Billy Price, and Lecitus Smith.  You may see Rashaad Coward at LG for Garcia.  If the Cards can’t establish a run game, this will make them one-dimensional.

Running Back

In a surprise move, the Cardinals released #2 running back Eno Benjamin in November.  This elevated rookie Keaontay Ingram, a big back from USC to the number 2 role.  Former Steelers RB James Conner is clearly the #1.  He is capable of carrying the team on his back, provided he gets some decent play from the O-line.  If the Cards can run the ball it’s going to be a long night Monday for the Pats.  So far the running game in Arizona has disappointed.  Conner is averaging under 4 yards a carry.  He only has 121 carries and 4 TDs.  However he has caught 27 passes for 171 yards and another TD.

Wide Receiver

The Cards have great wide receivers in Deandre Hopkins, Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore, AJ Green, and Robbie Anderson.  Any of these players would be the #1 receiver on the Pats.  The top three have these stats.

Hopkins                49           574         3

Brown                   49           531         3

Moore                  41           414         1

I think we will see a lot of zone defense by the Patriots’ secondary.  This might be a game plan similar to what we saw with Buffalo.

Tight End

Murray lost his binky in Zach Ertz to injury.  Rookie, Trey McBride is a former high school basketball player that converted to TE at Colorado State.   It will be interesting to see if he can step up and fill the position.  Former Patriot Stephen Anderson is the other TE.

Defense

STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
LDE J.J. Watt
NT Leki Fotu Trysten Hill Rashard Lawrence IR  
RDE Zach Allen Jonathan Ledbetter
WLB Myjai Sanders Dennis Gardeck Victor  Dimukeje
LILB Zaven Collins Ben Niemann Kamu Grugier- Hill Nick Vigil IR
RILB Isaiah Simmons Tanner Vallejo Ezekiel Turner
SLB Markus Golden Cameron Thomas Jesse Luketa  
LCB Byron Murphy Jr. Q Trayvon Mullen
SS Jalen Thompson Isaiah Simmons  
FS Budda Baker Chris Banjo Charles Washington Q
RCB Marco Wilson Antonio Hamilton Q Christian Matthew  
         

Defensive Line

It starts with JJ Watt the 12-year DE.  He may be old (33) but he is still a dominant player.  The Patriots’ O-line will have problems containing him.  Watt has 6.5 sacks on the year.  The Cards will move Watt all around the line to take advantage of mismatches.  Zach Allen is another formidable pass rusher.  The former Boston College DE has chipped in with 4.5 sacks.  Leki Fotu is your typical huge Nose Tackle.  He stands 6’ 5”, and 335 lbs.  If he can control the middle and allow the linebackers to stay clean and make tackles that will shut down the Patriots’ run game.    Allen and Watt are a little light for DTs.

Outside Linebackers

On the edge, you have Markus Golden and Victor Dimukeje.  They are more like 3-4 outside linebackers.  Backups include Myjai Sanders, Cameron Thomas, Dennis Gardeck, and rookie Jesse Luketa.  Golden is a very disruptive edge rusher and is 2nd to Watt with 38 QB pressures.

Inside Linebackers  

Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons are the starters.  Collins is 2nd on the team with 74 tackles and Simmons is 4th with 60.  The D line funnels the run game into the middle for the Inside Linebackers to make the tackle.  I liked Collins when he came out in the draft in 2021, as he was selected one pick after Mac Jones.  He has that prototypical size for an inside linebacker at 6’ 5”, 260 Lbs.  Former Patriot Kamu Grugier–Hill, is a leader on their special teams.

Cornerback

Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson are the starters.  Murphy as of this writing was listed as Questionable.  Antonio Hamilton would replace Murphy if he can’t go.  The secondary overall is ranked 20th in the league.

Safety   

Budda Baker is an outstanding safety.  The 6th year player is a 2-time 1st team All-Pro, 2nd team All-Pro, and 4x Pro Bowl player.  He leads the team with 90 tackles.  Jalen Thompson is no slouch either.  He has 66 tackles for third on the team.  Overall, the defense does not produce a lot of turnovers as they have 7 INT and 7 fumble recoveries on the season.  For the season they are a plus 1 in the turnover department.

Specialist

STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
PK Matt Prater
P Andy Lee
H Andy Lee
PR Greg Dortch Q Rondale Moore Q
LS Aaron Brewer      

Matt Prater has been inconsistent.  He missed some time with a hip injury.  Andy Lee is the 19th-ranked punter in the league.  Both Greg Dortch and Rondale Moore were listed as Questionable in the Thursday Injury Report.

READ NEXT:
Six Questions Heading into Patriots’ Showdown with Cardinals

About Mark Morse

Merrimack Valley native and lifelong fan of the New England Patriots. My earliest memories of the Patriots were attending as a child with my dad, the off-season practice at Phillips Academy. I was at the Patriots game at Harvard Stadium in 1970 where Bob “Harpo” Gladieux was called out of the stands by the stadium announcer over the PA to play in the game. Analyzing the draft since ESPN first started to televise it in 1980 and former writer for the Lowell Sun Newspaper.


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