Without Brady, Patriots Set as Betting Underdogs on Road at Cardinals

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The New England Patriots have more intrigue than usual entering their daunting matchup against the Arizona Cardinals in the first Sunday Night Football game of the NFL season.

The Patriots, ahead of backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo making his first NFL start in place of suspended Tom Brady, are 6.5-point underdogs against the host Cardinals with a total of 45.5 points at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The line has shifted since reports that All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), along with LT Nate Solder and RG Jonathan Cooper, did not travel on the Patriots’ flight to Arizona on Friday, although there is the possibility they have stayed back for treatment. New England has not been an underdog by this large a margin since Brady was out with a knee injury in 2008.

The Patriots are 3-4 straight up and 3-4 against the spread in their last seven games as a road underdog according to the OddsShark NFL Database. Garoppolo, a third-year NFLer, did not throw an interception in the preseason, but he might be hard-pressed to keep that up against a talented Arizona pass defense that includes All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson and FS Tyrann Mathieu.

If Gronkowski, who is officially listed as questionable, is unable to play, the next TE up for the Patriots is Martellus Bennett, a former starter with the Chicago Bears. The Patriots’ concerns on the offensive line also raise questions about whether they will be able to limit disruptions by Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones, whom New England traded away last season.

Arizona is 8-2 SU but only 2-8 ATS in its last 10 home games vs. AFC teams, and was also just 3-6 ATS last season at University of Phoenix Stadium. Quarterback Carson Palmer, RB David Johnson and veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald have their work cut out for them against what was a top-10 defense last season and has playmakers such as OLB Jamie Collins and CB Malcolm Butler.

Who will generate a pass rush for New England in the Sunday Night Football matchup remains in question, since Jones is gone and DE Rob Ninkovich is suspended for testing positive for a banned substance.

The Cardinals are 20-4 SU in Palmer’s last 24 starts, as well as 7-0 SU in their last seven September games. The total has gone over six of the last seven times that New England was listed as an underdog. The total has gone under in four of the last five Patriots-Cardinals games.

Vince Young wants to play again, hires agent Leigh Steinberg

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Vince Young is hoping his football career isn’t over.

Young has hired agent Leigh Steinberg, who announced on Twitter today that Young has a “dream of playing more football.”

That Steinberg used the word “dream” suggests that he and Young realize it will be an uphill battle to get back to the NFL. Young hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2011, when he threw four touchdown passes and nine interceptions for the Eagles. He has spent time with the Bills, Packers and Browns since then but never made it past the preseason.

The fledgling Spring League has already said it would be interested in Young, so he’s got someone interested in him. But the Spring League is a long, long way from the NFL. It’s highly likely that Young has played his last NFL game, even if, at age 33, he’s not quite ready to say definitively that he’s done.

Report: NFL invited Chad Kelly to Combine, then rescinded invitation

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Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly was not invited to the Scouting Combine. Or perhaps he was invited, only to later learn it was a non-vite or an un-vitation.

According to Bill Polian of ESPN, Kelly initially was invited to the Combine, only to have that invitation rescinded by the league office. Polian, who signed Chad’s uncle Jim Kelly in 1986 and has been close to Kelly’s family for decades, indicated that the family isn’t sure why the invitation was rescinded.

It’s obvious why Kelly won’t be at the Combine: The NFL implemented a new rule this year that players who have been convicted of violent crimes won’t be permitted, and Kelly pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct two years ago as part of a case in which he was initially accused of punching two people, threatening to shoot up a bar with an AK-47 and resisting arrest.

What’s unclear is why the league would initially invite Kelly, only to rescind that invitation later. It may be that this new policy hasn’t been thoroughly considered, and the league is still deciding which types of offenses merit exclusion from the Combine. A disorderly conduct plea might not necessarily keep a player from the Combine, but when that plea stemmed from an incident in which the player was initially accused of violence and serious threats, the NFL steers clear.