|Tom Brady and the Patriots are 10-0 in home openers at Gillette Stadium. (US Presswire)|
Cardinals at Patriots -- Week 2
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. (turf, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Spread: Patriots by 13.5
Forecast: Sunny, 67 degrees
Records: Cardinals (Overall: 1-0, NFC West: 1-0); Patriots (Overall: 1-0, AFC East: 0-0)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Dec. 21, 2008: Patriots 47, Cardinals 7; Sept. 19, 2004: Patriots 23, Cardinals 12. Series record: The series is tied, 6-6.
What matters: The Patriots have won 15 of their last 17 home openers and are 10-0 in Gillette Stadium. The Cardinals are up against a lot of history, but the difference between those New England teams and this one is that many of the previous editions enjoyed stability on the offensive line. This team has yet to experience that luxury and the men taxed with protecting Tom Brady will likely be lining up alongside some new faces this week. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is fighting a back injury that caused him to split time with Marcus Cannon last week, and guard Dan Connolly is trying to shake a head injury. Donald Thomas, who has made one start last season, will likely be the next man up if Connolly is unable to go. That could prove troublesome against Cardinals defensive ends Darnell Dockett (seven quarterback hurries last week) and Calais Campbell (three hurries). This game could become more interesting than the spread suggests if any of these issues linger into Sunday.
Who matters: All eyes will be on Wes Welker after the slot receiver was held off the field for more than 36 percent of the Patriots' plays last week. It was likely the result of the game plan, but we should have a better idea after the game if the offense is beginning to move away from the steady Welker. RB Stevan Ridley broke out last week with 21 carries for 125 yards. He'll look to keep it going against a Cardinals defense that allowed an average of 124.1 rushing yards per game last season.
Key matchups: The Cardinals run many of the same blitz packages that the Pittsburgh Steelers have used with success against New England, so the offensive line is going to have to stand strong to give Brady a chance. Brady completed 50 percent of his passes when under pressure last season. Everyone knows about Larry Fitzgerald and all he brings to the table. It's doubtful Devin McCourty, who has struggled with bigger receivers, will be able to adequately contain him, and bringing safety help may not make much of a difference. The Patriots' best chance of slowing Fitzgerald will be for the pass rush to get after Kevin Kolb early and often.
Injuries of note: Connolly (head) and Vollmer (back) headline the list this week.
Inside stuff: The Patriots make it a habit to talk up their opponents each week, though it's often read straight from a script. This week no acting was necessary. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson's punt return skills have more than a few guys trembling. Special teams ace Matthew Slater said that he's lost some sleep worrying about Peterson (44 returns for 699 yards last season) this week, but considering that New England didn't allow a punt return to go for more than 26 yards last season, the coverage team appears equipped to face its fears.
Connections: Cardinals S James Sanders was a fourth-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2005. He appeared in 110 games for New England from 2005-10. Cardinals guard Rich Ohrnberger played for the Patriots from 2009-2010 and appeared in five games.
Stat you should know: A lot was made of New England running four more times than it passed last week. What many people may not realize is that the Patriots ran more than they passed in four games last season and operated at a 50-50 split in another.
Record watch: Welker (557) needs one reception to pass Troy Brown as the franchise's all-time reception leader. Brown will be inducted in the team's Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Looking ahead: The Patriots go on the road next week against the Baltimore Ravens and then travel to Buffalo, where the Bills handed them a shocking 34-31 loss last year.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Cardinals 20