With Jimmy Garoppolo at QB, Patriots listed as rare opening-day underdogs

 

Quite a double-header for Dolphins fans on Sunday, with Miami kicking off its 2016 season at 4:05 p.m. in Seattle and then the New England Patriots at Arizona immediately following on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, right, hands off to New England Patriots running back James White, left, during an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hands off to running back James White during practice in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Forever I thought that Tom Brady would beat the Deflategate rap, or at least that he would be able to postpone his four-game suspension long enough to play in September. But here it is, a New England game without Brady, and it will be the same next week when the Dolphins go to Foxborough.

How Jimmy Garoppolo does in Brady’s absence is anybody’s guess.

If you want mine, I think he will do fine in his first NFL start.

Whether that’s good enough to win at Arizona remains to be seen, but If the kid wasn’t up to the assignment, Bill Belichick would have seen it long ago and starting working with someone else on an emergency plan.

Garoppolo was a second-round pick in 2014, perfectly suited to be groomed as Brady’s backup. Even in short duty the last few years he is 20-for-31 passing with a 64.5 completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 91.9.

Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in his first start as a Dolphins rookie in 2012, earning a 39.0 rating. It would be wishful thinking to expect that Garoppolo will struggle in the same way. He’s no rookie and he’s been a special project of Belichick’s all summer.

All the same, the NFL gave both Miami and New England brutal opening trips and Garoppolo’s start surely plays into the fact that Las Vegas is listing the Cardinals as six-point favorites over the Patriots.

According to Boston.com, a website created by the Boston Globe, the Patriots have never been bigger underdogs in the Belichick era for a season-opening game.

Whatever Garoppolo does Sunday may give Miami fans hope going into next week’s showdown at Foxboro or it may underscore the challenge facing Adam Gase in his first season as Dolphins head coach.

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Need any more help getting ready? Well here’s a quote from Arizona coach Bruce Arians, who likened Garoppolo to a young Tony Romo in his pregame comments.

“Jimmy’s an excellent athlete,” Arians said. “A very accurate passer. Having been in the system, in that system especially, for the number of years he’s been there, he’s watched (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) come up with game plans and understands what they’re trying to do. But he’s a very good athlete. You have to defend his legs as much as his arm.”

Certainly makes things more interesting, but if Brady’s backup can get the Patriots two wins out of four, Miami is still going to have a hard time staying up.