The New England Patriots face off against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday night in prime time. Here are some bold predictions for the team after the whistle blows to kick off the new NFL season.
The New England Patriots 2016-17 campaign kicks off this Sunday as the team travels to Arizona to square off against the Cardinals in prime time. Even before the whistle blows for the Patriots to get Week 1 underway, this season has already been an unusual one, filled with unexpected highlights and abnormalities.
The team traded away rising superstar Chandler Jones early in the offseason, several rookies are poised to make big impacts and of course Tom Brady will be sidelined for the first four weeks of the season. Basically what I’m saying is, expect the unexpected when it comes to the New England Patriots this year. With that being said, here are a few bold predictions for the upcoming season.
- Jimmy Garappolo will only start 2 games
The four-game suspension of Tom Brady signaled the impending debut of Jimmy Garappolo, who will now serve as the team’s starting quarterback to start the season. When the team drafted him in the second round back in 2014, it was a clear sign of preparing for the future, though no one thought the Eastern Illinois product would see the field this early.
Garappolo has been at the top of the depth chart all preseason, and it’s safe to say that fans and the team has been underwhelmed with his performance thus far. His indecisiveness and oft timid play calls for a bit of a concern for a team that is used to sharp quarterback play. In his real first dress rehearsal against the Panthers in Week 3 of the preseason, Garappolo looked shaky to say least.
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On the flip side, rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett has surprised many with his impressive play in his first action as a professional. His strong arm is equally matched by his above average speed, making him a dual threat in the pocket that could give defenses trouble. The Patriots are obviously high on the NC State product, having drafted him in the third round in this year’s draft and that seemingly had to grow after he had an impressive preseason. If Garoppolo’s play remains medicore, don’t be shocked if Brissett gets his number called before Brady returns from suspension.
- Trey Flowers will lead the team in sacks
Trey Flowers’ rookie campaign wasn’t ideal. After being drafted in the fourth round in last year’s draft, the 6’2” 265 pound defensive end only managed to suit up for one game and was eventually placed on injured reserve at the start of December, ending his season.
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However, Flowers made the most of this preseason, showing signs of a legitimate speed pass rusher. After the team shipped off Pro-Bowler Chandler Jones to Arizona in the offseason, it was unclear who would fill his role as the edge rusher. Flowers showed glimpses of potentially becoming that replacement this preseason, being amongst the team leaders in sacks and tackles. His speed is impressive considering his size, which could translate into nightmares for opposing quarterbacks.
If Flowers continues his progression and gets more and more reps on the field, look for him to make a serious impact for this defensive unit.
- Martellus Bennett will disappoint
Patriots fans were elated when the team traded for Martellus Bennett in the early stages of the season, poised to become a lethal tight end duo paired with Rob Gronkowski. The team has been longing for another tight end with high production since the departure of Aaron Hernandez, but has yet to find it.
Bennett has made solid impact in every location he’s been in, which includes stints with the Giants, Cowboys and Bears. However, it seems as though his best playing days may behind him and that the team is in store for Scott Chandler 2.0. Proven veterans have a history of not always working out with the Patriots offense, as can be seen with Chad Ochocinco and Brandon LaFell.
Not only this, but second year-man A.J. Derby proved to be one of the favorite targets amongst the Patriots quarterbacks, leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
The Patriots also elected to keep a fourth tight end on the 53-man roster in Clay Harbor, a clear sign that the team is unsure if their tight end plans or expectations. While on paper it seems as though Bennett will terrorize defenses paired with Gronk, I wouldn’t be so sure. Keep your expectations low.