4. Bill Belichick vs. Kyler Murray
The Patriots aren’t in playoff position currently with a record of 4-6, but it would be a mistake to count New England out. Belichick’s ability to craft amazing defensive game plans on a weekly basis always gives his team a chance to win.
That’s bad news for a Cardinals team that really needs a win. Kyler Murray has piloted Arizona to a 6-4 record, but that’s only good for third place in the NFC West. This is not a game Murray and his teammates can afford to lose.
Arizona’s separation could play right into Belichick’s hands. Look for New England’s defense to force Murray to settle for short throws whenever he drops back to pass. The Patriots will place a premium on preventing the Cardinals from beating them with explosive plays. Time will tell if Murray has the patience to win a game under those conditions.
The one area where New England will struggle to stop Murray is when he tucks the ball and runs from inside the pocket. The Patriots’ defense will play a lot of zone to prevent those sort of scramble plays from turning into long touchdowns. That will put a lot of pressure on New England’s safeties to cover big stretches of the field on obvious passing downs.
The Cardinals are the better team, but that may not matter. Belichick’s genius is going to be a big problem for Murray.