Jimmy Garoppolo couldn't have a tougher assignment in his first NFL start. While Tom Brady is suspended, the third-year quarterback leads the New England Patriots at the Arizona Cardinals, one of the Super Bowl favorites, a team owning a strong defense.
Both teams were one win away from the Super Bowl last season.
"Mentally, I'm straight with Arizona, but it is a phenomenal opportunity," Garoppolo said. "This is why you play the game. You play to be in the game and play; you don't want to be the backup."
His opportunity this Sunday has come thanks to the "Deflategate" saga that finally has played out. Brady is gone for four weeks, and Garoppolo is the guy.
He should have a full complement of targets to throw to. Wide receiver Danny Amendola, recovering from knee and ankle issues in the preseason, is expected to start alongside Julian Edelman. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was iced by the Patriots to save him for the regular season. On 66 touchdown catches, he needs three more to break the Patriots record.
Arizona won't take a backup quarterback lightly. Last year, it was beaten by Pittsburgh third-stringer Landry Jones.
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer barely played in the preseason and has to shrug off the two interceptions he saw returned for touchdowns.