The New England Patriots are looking to win their 11th straight home opener against the Arizona Cardinals, and it is a game that is the Pats for the taking. While the Cardinals were able to narrowly beat the Seattle Seahawks in a minor NFC West upset, they will be facing a much tougher opponent fresh off of an impressive 34-10 win against the Tennessee Titans.
It’s a 1:00 game at Gillette, and I would appreciate it if any fans would send me pics of them at the game via Twitter (handle is @SorianoJoe).
For those of you living in the region, you can watch the game on FOX with Boston fans tuning in to the game on WFXT-TV. Dick Stockton and John Lynch calling the game. Is Lynch a good analyst? He’s a great person (lived in Tampa, it was against the law to dislike him there) and was an excellent safety for the Buccaneers, but I’m just wondering if he’s one of those former NFL players who has no idea what he’s doing in the booth. Thanks in advance.
You can also always listen to the game on 98.FM The Sports Hub.
You can view the injury report here and a minor break down of the major injuries and who may or may not play. Check back on the site for updates leading up to the game as well, if there are any to be shared.
Patriots Passing Offense vs. Cardinals Passing Defense
Three safeties and three cornerbacks are listed on the Cardinals injury report, so even though I anticipate them all playing, it’s going to be harder for the Cardinals to contain the Patriots receivers. Patrick Peterson is going to be shadowing Brandon Lloyd for much of the game, and I’m sure we will also see Kerry Rhodes in his zone often.
That’s going to bode well for the other weapons on the Pats, specifically tight end Rob Gronkowski. I can see him having a huge game against the Cardinals, because the Cards linebackers aren’t exactly the most stout in coverage. If the Patriots decide to send some targets Danny Woodhead’s (or Shane Vereen’s, if he plays), then he could also make a big impact on this game. I think the Pats should give Vereen some rest and utilize Woodhead, especially since he is better in blitz pick-up. They’ll need it with all the safety blitzes the Cardinals run, as well as the free blitzes up the middle from inside linebacker Daryl Washington.
Out of Aaron Hernandez, Gronk, and Wes Welker, two of those players are going to have monster games. The Cardinals have two good coverage safeties, so it’s all about picking their poison and matchups carefully. They have to know that the Patriots are going to beat them in some way, so the Cardinals will likely just try and limit the amount of damage that a Pats receiver can cause. It will be interesting to see how the Cards cover Welker in the slot, as they have depth at the position and can use Michael Adams or William Gay there.
People tend to underrate the Cardinals secondary, because they fail to recognize the depth that they have. They are five deep at CB and have a great safety duo. The problem is that the Patriots have three incredible pass-catchers that exploit the middle of the field, and those soft spots are the big weaknesses in the Cardinals defense. They are going to get exposed in those areas by Brady and Gronk, and while they do have depth at corner none of those guys are strong enough to cover Hernandez in the slot.
The Cardinals will try and blitz Brady as often as possible to try and get the Pats offense out of sync, but I’m not a big fan of either of their outside pass rushers. We’ll be seeing some creative blitzes from Ray Horton, especially safety blitzes. Defensive ends Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell form arguably the best 3-4 DE duo in the league, with Dockett fresh off of a monster game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Advantage: Patriots, just too many weapons for the Cardinals to handle. That, and Brady can diagnose any type of coverage in front of him.
Patriots Rushing Offense vs. Cardinals Rushing Defense
Stevan Ridley is going to find it much tougher to gain yards on the ground against Arizona, following his 125-yard outburst against the Titans. The Cards have one of the better defenses in the NFL, especially as it pertains against the run. Wilson is a monster in the box, and Washington is one of the best 3-4 ILBs in the game and is coming off of over 100 tackles last season. He sheds blocks at a high rate and has a great defensive line controlling the line of scrimmage in front of him.
Hopefully, Dan Connolly is good to go against the Cards. If not, then Donald Thomas had better be at his best at right guard, otherwise Campbell will expose him. Vollmer still isn’t fully healthy, which will create some big mismatches for Campbell on the right side whenever Marcus Cannon comes in. We’ll see how much the Patriots limit Vollmer, and his playing time will also be dictated by the health of Connolly. The left side was the problem against the Titans, but the state of the right side is in a state of flux due to injury concerns.
Advantage: Slight edge to Pats. I like Ridley and the interior of the offensive line, but I also like the Cardinals run defense. It’s tough to judge at this point, but Ridley’s 125 yard performance last week helps me feel the urge to give the Pats a slight advantage.
Continue reading to see how the Patriots defense stacks up against the Cardinals offense, as well as my prediction for the game.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.