The fate of the New England Patriots' season hangs in the balance Sunday.
The Arizona Cardinals will visit Foxboro Sunday afternoon with both teams trying to make a late-season playoff push. Arizona is pushing for its division title, while New England is crossing its fingers for a Wild Card spot.
Patriot Maven is breaking down the three most important matchups before every game all season long, with New England's Week 11 against the Cardinals next up on the slate.
Stephon Gilmore vs. DeAndre Hopkins
The Gilmore-Hopkins matchup would have been a premier matchup no matter what.
Hopkins is making a case for being crowned as the top receiver in the NFL, and his Hail Mary touchdown to beat the Bills two weeks ago was an all-timer. Gilmore was last year's Defensive Player of the Year and has only allowed more than 43 receiving yards once this season.
All of that makes this a great matchup on paper, but it was Gilmore's comments this week that made it even more exciting.
When asked who he was going to cover on Sunday, Gilmore said "I think everybody knows."
That isn't exactly trash talk, but it is something to latch onto, and it might fuel Hopkins as well. Hopkins called out the Bills secondary after Mossing them a couple weeks ago, and Gilmore's confidence heading into this game could set him up for similar postgame trash talk should Hopkins get the better of him.
In six career appearances against the Patriots, Hopkins has never scored a touchdown and his 4.8 receptions and 67.2 yards per game are both below his overall career averages.
Hopkins isn't the only viable receiver on the Cardinals, so his performance won't decide who wins the game. Either way, it will be entertaining to see who comes out on top – the league's best receiver against the league's best cornerback.
Michael Onwenu vs. Haason Reddick
To put it kindly, Onewnu got bullied last week.
Whether it was in terms of protecting the quarterback, picking up blitzes or preventing J.J. Watt from swatting balls at the line, it was probably his worst week as a Patriot.
Onwenu won't be going up against a future Hall of Famer this week against Arizona, and he won't be facing off against former Patriot and perennial Pro Bowler Chandler Jones either. Jones is out for the season after undergoing bicep surgery in October.
Instead, the Cardinals' best pass rusher is now Haason Reddick, and Reddick can do it all.
He can rush from the edge, stuff the run, cover tight ends or running backs and generally play the role of disruptor. Onwenu has the clear size advantage – he is two inches taller and 110 pounds heavier than Reddick – but the dynamism of the Cardinal linebacker could cause problems.
Onwenu needs to bounce back from his dud against Houston in order for New England's offense to get going Sunday afternoon.
Cam Newton vs. Kyler Murray
Almost a decade ago, Newton was the next big thing.
He was the one who was supposed to revolutionize the quarterback position and take over the league. Newton won a league MVP award in 2015, but since then, he's been on the decline.
Now, Murray is seen by many as the next big thing – and for good reason, too.
The second-year signal-caller has played himself into this year's MVP discussion as of late, becoming the first quarterback to rush for a touchdown in five consecutive weeks since the start of the Super Bowl era. Murray is also the 12th-leading rusher in the entire league and has fine-tuned his deep ball as well.
Newton hit some major speed bumps against San Francisco and Denver, and his 84.4 passer rating is third-worst among AFC starters. Still, he has rebounded and owns a 98.6 passer rating with six total touchdowns and just one turnover in his last four games.
Murray is having a better season than Newton, and his future is far brighter. But the battle between the dynamic former Heisman winners will still be engaging, and it will decide the game come Sunday.