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Three Big Things: Patriots Week

A look at the top storylines for Monday's game


The three biggest things to watch for Sunday when the Cardinals play the Patriots at State Farm Stadium:

Kyler, Mac Jones, And Consistent Quarterbacking

NFL teams need their quarterbacks – OK, maybe not the 49ers, it seems – and both the Cardinals and Patriots have had interesting years with Kyler Murray and Mac Jones. Murray is a two-time Pro Bowler, and his inconsistency also has a lot to do with missing players around him as well as his own play, although the Cardinals would love to see him trend up the balance of the season. Jones was injured earlier in the year and he has battled his own circumstances, including long-time defensive coach Matt Patricia becoming the offensive coordinator this season. Jones was caught by cameras clearly upset at the offense during last week's loss to the Bills, so, like Murray, there have been some emotional moments. The Cardinals should have the offensive edge in this game. But as usual, it comes down to quarterbacks.

James Conner And Efforting The Ground Game

The last time out the Cardinals ran for 181 yards, their best showing of the season. James Conner ran for 120 yards, his first 100-yard game as a Cardinal. But that was against an incredibly porous Chargers defense. The Patriots are ninth in the NFL is rushing yards allowed per play (and 11th in rushing yards allowed per game) and they still have Bill Belichick formulating the defense. Murray acknowledged the Patriots defended him differently than most teams when the two battled in 2020 in New England; the Cardinals will need some work done by Conner again to be in the position they need to win.

Kliff V. Belichick, Round 2

In 2020, the Cardinals should've won at New England. Patriots QB Cam Newton was dreadful. But the game was tight, the Cardinals missed a field goal and the Patriots didn't, and Kliff Kingsbury couldn't quite get the big win against his first NFL coach and a mentor. There is little question Kingsbury would want such a notch, which is true all the time but especially in a season when the first 12 games didn't go as planned. The Patriots are only .500 and have plenty of issues of their own. But they still have the best coach in NFL history, and Belichick is going to have a 10-day window to prepare after the Patriots last played on a Thursday night. Kingsbury and his staff want to make sure their 14 days of prep means more.