A few readers brought up an interesting conspiracy theory not bandied about this week in the wake of Wes Welker’s wake in Tennessee last Sunday.
Was Bill Belichick purposely underutilizing Welker in the win against the Titans so that he might break the team record for most catches in front of a home crowd at Gillette Stadium?
It seems a bit far-fetched, but it wouldn’t be the first time Belichick catered to a player in his quest for a personal goal. Think Vinny Testaverde, whom the Patriots coach allowed to pass for a touchdown pass in a 20th straight season in 2006. It would be a nice tribute for Welker, to receive an ovation at home, particularly after how things ended last year, and provide a nice synergy as the man whose team record he broke, Troy Brown, is set to be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame this weekend.
Belichick, of course, would never admit it, so file this theory under “coincidental.”
This week’s prediction roundup:
Globe staff: Four out of five pick the Patriots (New England by 13 ½).
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 23, Cardinals 9. Alarming Stat of Last Week: Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams combined to rush 15 times for 23 yards against Seattle. Now, Seattle’s got a potential top-five defense, understood. But you can’t rush for 23 yards and win many games in this league, particularly with a quarterback situation as muddled as Arizona’s. And Bill Belichick watches tape.
ESPN.com staff: Patriots across the board.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports.com: Patriots 31, Cardinals 21. The Cardinals will likely start Kevin Kolb here for the injured John Skelton. He did a nice job on the game-winning drive last week, but now he has time to think about starting. Does that factor? The Cardinals were good on defense last week, but this is Tom Brady, a big step up from Russell Wilson. Brady gets it done.
CBS Sports.com staff: Unanimous for the Patriots.
Vinne Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 45, Cardinals 14. Call this the Very Brady Bowl. The Patriots are very lucky they have enjoyed such long-term quarterback prosperity with Tom Brady. The Cardinals can’t solve their QB problems in the short term. They’ll travel a long way and hope Larry Fitzgerald can make enough big plays, but Brady is fully loaded. One of those Pro Bowl targets, Rob Gronkowski, will have reason to party like he was back in Arizona.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 31, Cardinals 13. The two hottest teams over the last 10 regular-season games get together in Foxboro, but there’s still a huge gap between the 9-1 Patriots and 8-2 Cardinals. Actually, there’s a pretty big gap right now between the 9-1 Patriots and 31 other teams.
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 34, Cardinals 14. The Cardinals somehow seem to keep playing in close, competitive, exciting games: Last year 13 of their 16 games were decided by a touchdown or less, and they went down to the wire against the Seahawks in Week One as well. So will they be in a close game again? No. The Patriots win this one easily.
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 38, Cardinals 17. Tom Brady with a much-improved defense is a scary thing, which is why Pats are Super Bowl faves at the moment. And the English have won an NFL-best 10 consecutive home openers at Razor Blade Stadium, which is why this is the biggest point spread in Week 2 by a lot. Can’t see Kevin Kolb and the Cacti hanging within two TDs of this opponent in this place.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports.com: Patriots 31, Cardinals 17. Is it too early to pencil the Patriots in for the Super Bowl? Probably. But with the way newcomers Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Brandon Lloyd played in the opener, it’s difficult not to consider the Patriots the favorites in the AFC. They’ll have no problems with Arizona on Sunday. Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Kurt Warner or Neil Lomax – there’s no chance the Cardinals are traveling across the country, playing at 1 p.m. ET and winning against a Belichick-coached team.
USA Today staff: Patriots across the board, with every staff member selecting them as his “lock of the week.”
Yahoo! sports staff: All Patriots.
Sam Farmer, Tribune Newspapers: Patriots 28, Cardinals 17. Patriots have won 24 of 25 regular-season home games, and rookies on defense have given them a boost. Winning in Foxborough a tall order for Kevin Kolb, despite strong outing in opener.
How we see it: Patriots 28, Cardinals 13. The Patriots offensive line is set for its first real test of the season with the Cardinals’ impressive defensive line coming to town. That could mean less Ridley and – yes – more Welker in the game plan if Brady finds himself in frequent trouble. Pats roll, but it’s close until the fourth.