The New England Patriots return to Gillette Stadium to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 1 p.m. ET. Starting this week, New England will play two NFC West teams in a three-week span. After the Arizona game, the Patriots will travel to Los Angeles for back-to-back contests at the L.A. Chargers, followed by a Thursday Night Football matchup against the L.A. Rams.
The Patriots, who are an NFL-best 58-16 in inter-conference games since 2002, are 0-2 against the NFC in 2020 with losses at Seattle and vs. San Francisco.
The New England Patriots will play against the Arizona Cardinals for the first time since opening the 2016 season at Arizona on Sunday Night Football, a 23-21 Patriots win on Sept. 11. The Patriots will host the Cardinals for the first time since a 20-18 loss in the 2012 home-opener on Sept. 16.
After a 1-6 series start against Arizona, New England won the next five games before splitting the 2012 and 2016 meetings. The series is tied overall at seven wins apiece, with the Patriots holding a 2-3 mark in home games, including 1-1 at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots have faced the Cardinals four times during Bill Belichick’s tenure as Patriots head coach (2000-present) and are 3-1 in those games.
Home Record: 2-3
Schaefer Stadium: 0-1
Sullivan Stadium: 0-1
Foxboro Stadium: 1-1
Road Record: 5-4
Busch Stadium: 1-2
Sun Devil Stadium: 3-2
University of Phoenix Stadium: 1-0
Bill Belichick vs. Arizona: 4-1 (3-1 with New England)
SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS
By Paul Perillo
When the Patriots run – Edge: Patriots
The Cardinals defense has been hit hard by injuries, particularly up front. The most recent loss was defensive tackle Corey Peters, who is out of the season with a knee injury. Chandler Jones was also lost for the year and fellow defensive ends Jordan Phillips (hamstring) and Zach Allen (ankle) are also on IR. Defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence (calf) could return for the Patriots game, but those absences have left Arizona a bit vulnerable up front and the run defense numbers indicate that. Arizona signed veteran Domata Peko on Monday to try to add some depth. The Cardinals rank 23rd against the run, allowing 124.7 yards per game, and 26th with 4.64 yards per attempt. The Patriots obviously want to establish the ground game, and after a rare subpar outing for Damien Harris and the rushing attack in Houston it would make sense for Josh McDaniels to pound the rock early and often against the Cardinals. Rex Burkhead’s knee injury creates some problems, but fortunately Sony Michel is back on the active roster and ready to fill in, giving Harris some support. The offensive line needs to be more consistent opening holes in the running game, particularly against the Cardinals banged up front that has struggled to contain the run for large stretches this season.
When the Patriots pass – Edge: Cardinals
Arizona’s secondary has been a bit inconsistent this season but there is talent on the back end. Veteran Patrick Peterson looks to have lost a step but remains a savvy corner who is capable of making big plays. Dre Kirkpatrick is inconsistent on the other side but also is capable, while Byron Murphy serves as the nickel back. The strength of the group is the safeties, particularly the impressive Budda Baker. Baker is a playmaker who likes to roam the secondary and is active on all three levels of the defense. Against the Patriots limited passing attack, he may spend more time than usual up around the line of scrimmage, and Cam Newton will need to be aware of him being used as a blitzer, something the Texans had success with last week. The Cardinals also have active linebackers in the passing game with Haason Reddick often used as a rusher and rookie Isaiah Simmons starting to emerge as a quality cover man underneath. Damiere Byrd spent last season with the Cardinals so they are familiar with him, especially after his career day in Houston. Jacoby Meyers was quiet against the Texans but will likely return as Newton’s favored target. With Burkhead out the burden falls on James White to produce out of the backfield, and someone beyond Byrd and Meyers (perhaps Donte’ Moncrief) will need to emerge if the Patriots are to do much damage through the air.
When the Cardinals run – Edge: Cardinals
It seems the Patriots face a dangerous, mobile quarterback every week. Through the first 10 games of the season New England has dealt with Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. Now they get to see young Kyler Murray, who is as dangerous with his legs as any of them. Behind his quick feet the Cardinals rank second in the league in rushing (157.7 yards per game) and first in yards per rush (5.15). The Patriots have endured their share of struggles against the above group, as Wilson, Mahomes and Watson all used their mobility to create plays in the passing game. Allen was effective in that regard as well. The Patriots may catch a break, though, as Murray is dealing with a shoulder sprain and even if he can play he may be reluctant to run as much as normal. In the conventional sense, the Cardinals use Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds as their main ball carriers. Both average over 4 yards per carry and have combined for six rushing touchdowns. Murray is the most dangerous threat, though, with 10 rushing touchdowns and a 6.7-yards per carry average. The Patriots new look front with Carl Davis in the middle of Byron Cowart and Lawrence Guy has been better the last two weeks. They will need to continue that against the Cardinals and force Murray to the air.
When the Cardinals pass – Edge: Cardinals
Arizona has an explosive offense and makes some big plays in the passing game. Much of that is contingent on the ground game, but Murray is developing as a passer as well. He has arguably the best weapon in the game in DeAndre Hopkins, who makes the Texans look sillier for trading him with each passing week. Hopkins is a beast, and as Bill Belichick often says, “he’s open even when he’s not.” That’s a testament to his size and strength to compete for the ball in traffic. He leads the way with 72 catches for 912 yards and four touchdowns. But Murray has other options as well. Larry Fitzgerald is the consummate professional, and even at his advanced age he remains a consistent threat in the slot in the short passing game. Speedsters Christian Kirk (six touchdowns) and Andy Isabella are both dangerous as well. Murray completes better than 68 percent of his throws and has 19 TDs to go with his 10 rushing scores, but he’s also thrown eight interceptions and gets a little loose with the ball at times. That’s where the Patriots secondary must take advantage. Coming off a rough outing in Houston the Patriots need to find a way to take the ball away, and with J.C. Jackson leading the way with six picks he’s a solid candidate to do so. Stephon Gilmore has locked horns with Hopkins in the past so those two are familiar with one another. Jonathan Jones should see a lot of Kirk while the safeties may handle Fitzgerald underneath. Getting some pressure on Murray would help, but regardless the coverage needs to improve.
Nick Folk is no longer much of a concern having connected on 17 straight field goals. His consistency has allowed the struggling Patriots offense to at least come away with points after most of their successful drives. Jake Bailey continues to change field position when called upon with his booming leg averaging more than 50 yards per punt on his three kicks last week. The Cardinals are solid in the kicking game as well with Zane Gonzalez making 15 of 19 fields and 32 of 33 PATs. Andy Lee handles the punting duties and has just one touchback in 33 attempts. Both teams have been solid in the coverage units and neither gets much of anything in the return game. A couple of weeks ago Belichick lamented some lost opportunities on kick returns, and things seem to be getting worse with Gunner Olszewski’s decision making. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a change made in that department. Edmonds, Kirk and Isabella have all handled kicks and punts but the Cardinals haven’t gotten much to show for it. The Patriots consistency in the kicking game gives them a leg up.
QB Cam Newton passed for 365 yards & TD vs. 0 INTs for 102.6 rating last week. Aims for 5th in row with 0 INTs & 3rd in row with 100+ rating. Has passed for 942 yards (314 per game) in 3 career games vs. Az. Has rush TD in 2 of his past 3 at home. Ranks 2nd among QBs & tied-3rd in NFL with 9 rush TDs.
RB Sony Michel has rush TD in 2 of his past 3 at home. RB Damien Harris had 54 scrimmage yards (43 rush, 11 rec.) & rushed for TD last week. Aims for 6th in row with 50+ scrimmage yards. Has 191 scrimmage yards (95.5 per game) in his past 2 at home. RB James White had season-high 83 scrimmage yards (64 rec., 19 rush) & 6 catches last week. Had 5 catches for 40 yards in last meeting. Since 2015, leads RBs in receptions (348), rec. yards (3,053) & rec. TDs (24).
WR Damiere Byrd had 6 catches for career-high 132 yards & TD last week. Has 5+ catches in 2 of past 3. Has 70+ rec. yards in 2 of his past 3 vs. NFC West. Had 32 catches for 359 yards & TD in 2019 with Az. WR Jakobi Meyers has 50+ rec. yards in 4 of his past 5. Has 60+ rec. yards in 2 of his past 3 vs. NFC. WR N’Keal Harry had 5 catches in Week 11. TE Ryan Izzo had season-high 59 rec. yards last week.
CB J.C. Jackson has INT in 5 of past 6. Aims for his 6th in row at home with PD & 4th in row at home with INT. Ties for NFL lead with 6 INTs this season. CB Stephon Gilmore aims for 3rd in row with 6+ tackles. Had 4 PD & 2 INTs in his last game vs. Az. (9/25/16 with Buf.). Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Az. with PD. S Devin McCourty had 9 tackles in last meeting. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. NFC West with INT.
QB Kyler Murray passed for 269 yards & 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 102.2 rating last week. Has 8 games with both pass & rush TD in 2020, tied-most in single season in NFL history. Has 2+ TD passes in 4 of his past 5. Has 12 TDs (9 pass, 3 rush) vs. 2 INTs for 98.3 rating in 5 road games this season.
RB Kenyan Drake had rush TD last week. Has 8 rush TDs in his past 7 on road & aims for his 4th in row on road with rush TD. Has TD in 2 of his 3 career games at NE. RB Chas Edmonds had rec. TD in Week 11. Has TD in 4 of his past 5 on road.
WR Deandre Hopkins had 5 catches last week & became youngest player to reach 700 career receptions in NFL history. Is 5th player with 700+ catches in 1st 8 seasons in NFL history. Has 5+ receptions in 4 of his 5 road games this season. Aims for his 4th in row vs. NE with 5+ catches & 60+ rec. yards. WR Larry Fitzgerald led team with 8 catches last week. Has 57 games with 8+ receptions, most in NFL history. Had 8 catches for 81 yards & 2 TDs in last meeting. WR Christian Kirk has 3 rec. TDs in his past 4 on road. Aims for his 4th in row on road with 50+ rec. yards.
S Budda Baker has sack in 2 of his past 3 on road. Aims for his 4th in row on road with TFL. Is 1 of 2 DBs (Jordan Poyer) with 75+ tackles (78), 2+ sacks (2) & 2+ INTs (2) this season. Rookie LB Isaiah Simmons had career-high 10 tackles & 1st career sack last week. LB Haason Reddick has 8 TFL in his past 5. LB Jordan Hicks has 9+ tackles in 3 of his past 4 on road. CB Patrick Peterson had INT in last road meeting. Since 2011, ranks 3rd among active players with 28 INTs.
A look at the connections between the New England Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals.
HC Kliff Kingsbury – Drafted in the 6th round (201st overall) by the Patriots in 2003. He spent the season on IR, but was part of the Super Bowl XXXVIII winning team.
RB D.J. Foster – Originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State in 2016. He saw action in three games his rookie season and was part of the Super Bowl LI winning team. He was put on the practice squad the following season where he was claimed by Arizona on 9/3/17.
LB Chandler Jones – (2012-15) – Won Super Bowl XLIX with Patriots.
DB Justin Bethel – (2012-17)
WR Damiere Byrd – (2019)
OL Korey Cunningham – (2018)
QB Brian Hoyer – (2012)
TE Jordan Thomas – (2020)
Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry and Cardinal’s QB Brett Hundley both grew up and attended Chandler High School in Chandler, AZ. Harry won a State Championship there in 2014 and Hundley was named Arizona’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior in 2009. They did not play together at any point.
IF THE PATRIOTS WIN…
The New England Patriots will improve on the NFL’s best regular season home record since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002. The Patriots enter Week 12 with a 124-25 (.832) record in regular season games and a 143-29 (.831) overall mark at Gillette Stadium.
New England owns a 29-8 (.784) record against NFC teams at home since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002. That mark ranks second in the AFC over that span, behind Pittsburgh’s 29-7-1 (.797) record against the NFC at Heinz Field since 2002.
And a player eclipses 100 yards rushing, the team will improve to 54-3 since the 2000 regular season when a player rushes for at least 100 yards.
And the team does not commit a turnover, New England will win its 72nd game since 2008 without committing a turnover. The Patriots enter Week 12 with a 71-10 record in zero turnover games since 2008.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR…
The New England offense enters this week fourth in the NFL, averaging 153.6 rushing yards per game (1,536 total rushing yards), on pace for 2,458 rushing yards for the season. That would rank fourth in team annals behind the 3,165 rushing yards in 1978, 2,948 in 1976 and 2,605 in 1983.
Damien Harris (3) and Sony Michel (1) have combined for four 100-yard rushing performances so far in 2020, the most since 2007 (5).
Bill Belichick will coach his 454th NFL game this week vs. Arizona, tying Tom Landry for third-most in NFL history, behind the 526 games coached by Don Shula and 506 games by George Halas.
Entering this week’s game vs. Arizona, Patriots K Nick Folk has successfully converted 17 consecutive field goal attempts, the third longest streak of his career behind the 23 consecutive field goals made in 2013 and 19 straight made from 2010-11. Both streaks occurred while Folk played for the New York Jets. Overall, Folk now has seven streaks of 10 or more consecutive field goal conversions in his career.
DB Ron Hall set a Patriots franchise record in 1964 with 13 takeaways (11 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries) in a single season. J.C. Jackson has recorded six interceptions and recovered two fumbles for eight takeaways in 2020, becoming the 15th Patriot with at least eight takeaways in a single season. CB Asante Samuel (10 interceptions) has the team mark for most takeaways in a single season under head coach Bill Belichick.
With his next interception, Devin McCourty (28) will tie Ron Hall, Roland James and Fred Marion for third all-time in Patriots history with 29 career interceptions.
McCourty has 493 interception return yards in his regular season career and needs seven yards to become the third Patriot with 500 return yards.
If McCourty returns another interception for a touchdown this season, he will tie the team record with two pick-sixes in a single year. The feat has been accomplished nine times.
Cam Newton has scored nine rushing touchdowns in 2020, on pace for 14 for the season. That mark would break his NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a QB set in 2011.
With one more rushing touchdown this season, Newton will become the 11th Patriot to rush for double-digit TDs in a single season and first since RB LeGarrette Blount set a franchise record with 18 rushing TDs in 2016.
Newton is the only QB in NFL history with two double-digit rushing touchdown seasons and with one more rushing TD, he will extend his NFL record with a third season of 10-plus rushing touchdowns.
Newton has three multi-rush TD games so far this season, tied for most by a QB in a single season.
Steve Grogan set a Patriots QB record in 1978 with 81 rushing attempts for 539 yards. Newton currently has 83 carries for 341 yards and is on pace for 133 rushing attempts for 546 yards.
White has 24 touchdown receptions in 86 career regular season games. Brian Westbrook currently holds the record for the fastest running back to reach the 25 TD reception mark, achieving the feat in 87 regular season games. White can tie that record with a TD reception vs. Arizona this week.
White needs two receiving touchdowns to tie Larry Garron (26) for the most in franchise history by a running back.
Since White became a regular contributor on offense in 2015, he has more receptions (348), receiving yards (3,053) and receiving touchdowns (24) than any other running back in the NFL.