FOXBOROUGH - Gorgeous day for football. Here are my five keys for the Patriots against the Cardinals today, with my prediction down below.
- Control DT Darnell Dockett: The Cardinals have some talented defenders, but Dockett makes everything go. The Patriots have to control him at the line or else Dockett will open opportunities for other players. Hopefully we get a Logan Mankins-Dockett matchup most of the game. That would be be fun. I would expect the Patriots to give Mankins help because he is not moving as well from before his knee problems.
- Hit QB Kevin Kolb early: The book on Kolb is you hit him in the mouth early and he’s done for the game. He’ll look at the rush instead of down the field, and when a QB does that, he’ll be useless. The Cardinals’ line is subpar. Unless he gets chipped all day, DE Chandler Jones should have four sacks against journeyman LT D’Anthony Batiste. Actually, the entire Cardinals line save LG Daryn Colledge is below average. They can’t pass block, and couldn’t run block against the Seahawks either.
- Double WR Larry Fitzgerald: The only offensive player that is a threat for the Cardinals is the exquisite Fitzgerald. So roll a safety over the top of him and make Kolb beat you with three average tight ends, and two receivers (Early Doucet and Michael Floyd) who haven’t done much. The Cardinals will use Andre Roberts in a bunch of ways, and he has some skills, but he can be managed.
- Manage PR Patrick Peterson: Peterson, the CB, is a terrific punt returner. Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko needs to angle his kicks and have a good hangtime so the Patriots can cover well. Or just kick it out of bounds.
- Have an answer for press coverage: The Cardinals’ run the same defensive scheme as the Steelers. Even Dick LeBeau realized last season that playing zone blitz against Tom Brady is a losing proposition. So he changed up, and played all man to man. The Patriots had no answer. They better have one for this game, because Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton is a LeBeau disciple and probably took a lot of notes on that game. The Cardinals can matchup decently well with the Patriots in man coverage. Also expect the Patriots to run a lot of misdirection, both in the run and pass game to make the Cardinals’ speed on defense work against them.
The Patriots will have a few struggles on offense against a good, solid Cardinals scheme. However, I have a hard time seeing how the Cardinals move the ball at all on offense. They can’t run the ball. Fitzgerald is the only legit threat on offense. The Patriots should be able to manhandle the Cardinals’ line up front. That adds up to a big, easy win.
Patriots 31, Cardinals 3