For the first time since 2008 the New England Patriots will be sitting out the NFL playoffs in January, a factor that seemed still in doubt prior to the team traveling to Houston and delivering one of the more disappointing performances in the Bill Belichick era.
It’s a long shot. CBS Sports’ projected postseason model gives the Patriots only a 5.8 percent chance of making the tournament. But New England isn’t dead yet either. Not yet.
Any playoff push begins with running the table, a suggestion that seems absurd after witnessing what the pathetic Texans managed against the Patriots last week. That begins Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, a game that has most of the prognosticators below split in determining the outcome.
It’s not exactly in the same stratosphere, but you might remember the 1994 Patriots ran the table on their march to the playoffs, this after a 3-6 start to the season. Then again, that team showed plenty of promise in the early season, reasons why the fandom should have hoped for such success.
Not so much with this squad.
Still, if the Patriots beat the Cardinals, their hopes increase, if only slightly. The Chargers, Rams, Dolphins, Bills, and Jets remain. Does anyone really think the Browns can firmly hold onto their playoff berth? Are the Ravens poised to lose their grip on the playoffs thanks to a COVID outbreak? (Or was it the Patriots — and New England weather — simply getting into their heads?)
It’s not over.
Even if it really is, over.
This week’s predictions:
Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times: Cardinals (-2.5). “As recently as last season, a visit from a first- or second-year quarterback to Foxborough, Mass., could be marked down as a win for New England before kickoff. That mastery of young quarterbacks has fallen away this year, and Kyler Murray and the Cardinals (6-4) head into New England as favorites. Arizona hasn’t been a dependable performer, but the Patriots (4-6) struggle far more to be competitive on a week-to-week basis.”
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 24, Cardinals 21. “‘AAAWWWK!’ trills the Upset Bird. ‘Bill Belichaaawwwk!’ New England last missed the playoffs in 2008 and has little margin of error left to still avoid that fate. Bill Belichaaawwwk I mean Belichick is struggling post-Tom Brady, but I believe he has enough defensive weapons and the chops to limit Kyler Murray, who’ll be less than 100 percent with a shoulder issue. Arizona has lost two if its past three; the Cardbirds are beatable. Poor Cam Newton has few weapons at his disposal. Good God do the Pats need Julian Edelman back! But if New England can summon a little bit of old home magic and keep this from becoming a touchdown swap meet, I think I’ll be liking my pick. “Touchdown swap meet. Not bad,” nods U-Bird. ‘Patrioaawwk!”
MMQB staff: Three out of four like the Cardinals.
ESPN staff: Nine out of 10 go with Arizona.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Cardinals 30, Patriots 20. “The Cardinals are coming off a bad showing at Seattle last week. This will be a long trip to try and get that bad offensive showing out of their system. But the Patriots defense hasn’t been good this season, and it won’t be here. Kyler Murray gets the better of Cam Newton.”
CBS Sports staff: Split (Cardinals -2.5).
Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Cardinals. “The Patri*ts aren’t good anymore. That’s their new reality. This line is only 2.5 points because it takes a while to folks to recalibrate their thinking on teams that are good for a long time but become bad, or vice versa.”
Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: Cardinals (-2.5). “There are some lines that make no sense. I’m not sure why the Cardinals are giving less than a field goal against a Patriots team that, aside from a win over the Ravens in the rain, has not played well in months. Maybe the oddsmakers know something we don’t.”
Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: New England (+2.5).
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Cardinals 27, Patriots 20. “The Cardinals profile very similarly to the Texans, who just ripped the Patriots with a running QB and big pass plays all over the field. Kyler Murray is hard to stop and the Patriots’ front seven is not equipped to do so with limited speed. They also will have trouble contaning DeAndre Hopkins downfield. The Cardinals’ defense has a lot of holes, but they pick spots to slow down and stop Cam Newton.”
Bill Bender, Sporting News: Patriots 28, Cardinals 26. “The Patriots are all but out of the playoff race, and the Cardinals are trying to get back on track after a loss to the Seahawks. Arizona’s defense has allowed 28 points or more the last four weeks. Will Bill Belichick come up with some defensive wrinkles that test Kyler Murray’s patience? Or will Murray do what Deshaun Watson just did to New England? Here is this week’s out-of-the-box upset pick.”
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Cardinals 24, Patriots 17. “If the Patriots couldn’t stop Deshaun Watson, they won’t be able to stop Kyler Murray.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Cardinals 31, Patriots 21. “ have a very hard time seeing this Patriots Defense slowing down Kyler Murray & Co. The Cardinals should cruise in this one.”
Five ThirtyEight: Patriots, 52 percent (-0.5).
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Cardinals 27, Patriots 24. “After facing Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson this season, Bill Belichick is probably ready to end his tour of the Quarterback Revolution. It’s clear that no amount of scheming is going to make the Patriots’ front seven talented enough to hang with players like Kyler Murray, especially when the opposing QB’s backed by a dynamic running game. Cam Newton is playing well enough to stay close in games, but not well enough to survive a defense ranked 25th in EPA and dead last in DVOA.”
NFL PickWatch: Eighty percent are going with the Cardinals.
It says here: Patriots 27, Cardinals 21. If only to simply tease you for one more week about their playoff chances.
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