The Patriots host the Arizona Cardinals in their season home opener at 1 p.m. Both teams come into the game with 1-0 records. The Patriots ran all over the Titans last week, coasting to their first victory. The Cardinals on the other hand, squeaked out a 20-16 victory over Seattle. Arizona received most of their headlines during the preseason because they waited to announce their starting quarterback. John Skelton got the start, but was injured during the game. Kevin Kolb came into the game and went 6-for-8 for 66 yards and a game-winning touchdown to win the game. With Skelton injured, Kolb will get the start against New England. As always, if the Patriots follow my offensive and defensive keys, they will start the year off at 2-0.
Keys on Offense:
Ridley me that! While the Patriots wanted to focus on improving their running game from last season, I don’t think anyone saw Ridley’s powerful performance coming. He pounded the Titans’ defense, tiring them out and making Tom Brady’s job much easier. The Cardinals gave up 115 rushing yards last week, so look for Stevan Ridley to get a good amount of touches again this week. This will also make Ridley an intriguing fantasy option for Week 2.
Stay away from Peterson. Patrick Peterson may be the Deion Sanders of our generation. He has speed, athleticism, and is a dangerous return man. He has the ability to cover if beaten deep and bring any interception back to the house. Since he is their number one corner, look for Peterson to get one-on-one chances with Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. Tom Brady certainly knows how to deal with stud corners, having to play Darrelle Revis twice a year, so I don’t expect Brady to be fooled often.
Win the time of possession. The Cardinals’ offense has its fair share of offensive weapons. However, they only had the ball for 26 minutes against the Seahawks. Keeping Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald on the sideline will make it harder for them to get into a groove throughout the game. The Patriots were very effective with winning the time of possession against the Titans. They controlled the ball for almost 32 minutes.
Keys on Defense:
Double Fitzgerald! Larry has consistently been an elite receiver in the NFL. He is easily the best target on the Cardinals offense and will get plenty of targets this week. I expect the secondary to double Fitz and force Kolb to look for his younger receivers, Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. Kolb is also known to be reckless with the football. If he feels the heat, chances are he will chuck the ball up in Larry’s direction. The safeties should be keyed in on this and take advantage.
No Beans Please! Beanie Wells burst onto the NFL scene last year with his hard-nosed running style. Beanie is capable of torturing a defense if he can find the holes his offensive line gives him. However, the Cardinals running game was horrible against Seattle, gaining only 32 yards. Beanie had 7 carries for only 14 yards. He shouldn’t be optimistic since the Patriots held Chris Johnson to two yards last week. Taking away the running game and forcing Kolb to make plays will result in a lot of turnovers.
Stay in your lanes. This key is more of a special teams key. As I mentioned before, Patrick Peterson has a tremendous return game. Zoltan Mesko must make sure to kick the ball out of bounds or risk constant good field position for Arizona. Kick and punt returns are the biggest source of momentum in most football games. Suffocating Peterson on special teams will give the Patriots even more of an edge.
My Prediction: The Cardinals are an up and coming team, but they lack the quarterback talent to keep up with the Patriots. Stevan Ridley will tire the defense and the deadly Gronk/Hernandez combo will burn the Cardinals linebacker corps. This game may be close early, but the Pats will pull away for the victory.
Patriots 31, Cardinals 14