No one gave New England much of a chance against the Arizona Cardinals.

The bookmakers in Las Vegas made them 9.5-point underdogs, the largest point spread against the Patriots since the Super Bowl in 2002, thanks to the absence of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. New England played with two rookie starters on the offensive line and a backup at left tackle.

Almost no one (3.2 percent) started backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in their fantasy league and fewer still (0.1 percent) picked the team in their Yahoo survivor pool.

Yet the Patriots prevailed 23-21 over the Cardinals in Sunday’s season opener.

“I am really proud of our team tonight,” Coach Bill Belichick told reporters after the game. “I thought we got great effort from all three phases. We played a good complimentary game.”

The win came at the most opportune time: the rest of the AFC East teams lost their openers. The Buffalo Bills lost 13-7 to the Baltimore Ravens. The New York Jets fell 23-22 to the Cincinnati Bengals. And the Miami Dolphins let the Seattle Seahawks come from behind to win, 12-10.

According to ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index, the Patriots were expected to win 9.8 games this season, “about 0.4 fewer games than if Brady was available from the start,” said the network’s Sharon Katz. New England was also given a 59 percent chance to win the division before the start of the regular season. The Patriots’ chances to win the AFC East improved to 68 percent, with any team in the rest of the division having no greater than a 15 percent chance.

Katz also noted the Patriots had an “average projection of 2.3 wins with Garoppolo under center,” and you’d have to think that Week 1 against Arizona, who won the NFC West last season, was one of their toughest games on the slate.

With that victory in the books, New England’s next three games – all with Garoppolo at QB – are at home against the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills. Since Belichick took over as coach in 2000, the Patriots are 104-24 at home during the regular season. They are 14-1 at home against division opponents and 29-1 at home against AFC teams since 2011. The lone loss was against Buffalo in Week 17 of the 2014 season when Brady played only the first half and Gronkowski was a healthy scratch.

The Dolphins couldn’t secure the win against the Seahawks despite holding them to just 12 points. And the Bills just got word that their top receiver, Sammy Watkins, could miss a significant amount of time with a foot injury.

The Texans could be a problem – their defense and defensive front, led by J.J. Watt, had the league’s sixth-highest adjusted sack rate (7.5 percent sacks per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent). But even if New England loses to Houston, there is still a good chance the Patriots go 3-1, with Brady returning in time to face Cleveland in Week 5. The same Browns that allowed the second-most points per drive (2.26) in 2015, which is why the Patriots are already a seven-point favorite in that matchup.

Since 2000, the Patriots have started with at least four wins over the first five weeks seven times. They made three Super Bowls and three AFC conference title games in those years – illustrating why you can never give them any extra chances to win games they shouldn’t.