Cardinals-Patriots preview: Week 12 matchup is pivotal to keep up in NFC West

Alex Sutton
·4 min read

Thursday Night Football was…disappointing.

Had they won that game, the Arizona Cardinals would have been in the driver seat to control their own destiny for the NFC West title. With the loss, they are a win behind both the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks.

In the span of eight days, the NFC West had three different first-place holders. The Cardinals held that spot after beating Buffalo and following Seattle’s loss to the Rams. After Thursday Night Football, the Seahawks held first, but lost is upon L.A.’s victory over the Bucs on MNF.

The point here, is the NFC West is still up for grabs. Yes, the Seahawks have an incredibly easy schedule, so they will require at least one loss for the Cards to take their place

Arizona must focus on themselves this Sunday as they go up against one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, Bill Belichick.


Life without Larry Fitzgerald

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Cardinals star WR Larry Fitzgerald has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Sunday's game against the Patriots, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero. Statistically, this season hasn't gone the way Fitzgerald has hoped. Up until this point, however, everything had gone right. The Cardinals are winning and his family was healthy. We can hope for a false positive for the Arizona legend, but Kliff Kingsbury and the offense must prepare without him. While Fitzgerald isn't lighting up the stat sheets, he's been critical in mentoring this very young Cardinals team and has come clutch in 2-minute drills. We've seen Fitz make a difference by getting the ball to the referee in time to spike it on two occasions. One came against the team's important week one win over the 49ers, while the other sent the Cardinals into overtime against the Seahawks in week seven. Fitzgerald means the world to this team and organization. In his absence, Andy Isabella will likely take over his playing time in the slot. Should Isabella have a fantastic game in his natural role, which also happens to be Fitzgerald's position, there could be a harsh reality to be faced.

The Cardinals' and Patriots' game plans for Sunday:

The Cardinals will face arguably the greatest coach of all time this Sunday. One would imagine he's going to scheme up an interesting plan to try and slow down Kyler Murray. He'll likely devise some creative looks defensively to confuse the Cardinals' star quarterback. Murray's injury to his throwing shoulder is a concern. While he and others have said he's fine, the chance of it flaring up during a game is certainly there. In Thursday's loss to Seattle, the Cards moved away from their very effective designed quarterback runs in an effort to prevent further injury to Murray's shoulder. We can only hope it doesn't become a problem moving forward. Defensively, the Cardinals must be prepared for a possible run-heavy gameplan from Patriots' OC Josh McDaniels. Given the Cardinals' thin defensive line, it's safe to assume McDaniels will be looking to exploit that, as Seattle did. Vance Joseph's front-seven will need to hold down the fort until their starters can return from injury. Isaiah Simmons must be on the field the majority of the time moving forward. He was all over the field against the Seahawks and gives the Cardinals' speed in the front seven when Budda Baker drops back in coverage. They desperately need a playmaker like Simmons for the home stretch. Offensively, the Cardinals will need to get DeAndre Hopkins involved early and often. The Patriots present a challenge in doing so, given 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore will likely travel with Hopkins. Given the absence of Fitzgerald, Hop must win his 1-on-1 battles.

Positional Comparisons:

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Which team has the advantage at each position? Let's see: QB: AZ RB: AZ WR: AZ TE: NE OL: NE S: AZ CB: NE LB: AZ DL: NE HC: NE K: AZ P: AZ

Conclusion:

(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

If the Cardinals falter this Sunday, they'll likely still maintain the NFC's seventh seed. Still, it would be an unfortunate series of events (and a Hopkins failed Hail Mary away from being 0-4 in their last four games). It's pivotal they take care of business. Looking ahead, the Cards must still play the Rams twice. Those are the key to taking back first place in the NFC West. If the Cardinals don't win the division, however, it really isn't the end of the world. It's unlikely any of the NFC West teams obtain the No. 1 seed, given they all play one another. Without a first-round bye for the No. 2 seed, the difference in seeding is basically just home-field advantage...without fans. Step One. Beat New England. Listen to the latest from Cards Wire's Jess Root on his podcast, Rise Up, See Red. Subscribe on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Latest show:

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