The Arizona Cardinals, which eeked out a 20-16 home win against the Seahawks in Week One, will face a whole new set of challenges this week when it travels cross-country to take on the mighty New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. The Cardinals are being given little chance in this one as the New England Patriots are favored by 13.5 points in our NFL odds.
Arizona is expected to have a new quarterback at the controls of its upset bid. Week One starter John Skelton is not expected to play because of a right ankle injury suffered against the Seahawks. In his place will be Kevin Kolb, who spent last year as the Cardinals’ No. 1 starter but was beat out for the position by Skelton in training camp. After replacing Skelton in the fourth quarter last week, Kolb engineered an 80-yard winning touchdown drive late in the game to the seal the victory. Kolb finished the day 6 of 8 for 66 yards, including a pair of big connections to Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and a touchdown pass.
While the Week One win for the Cardinals was certainly nice, traveling to New England to take on the Patriots amounts to a drastic step up in class. In addition to a seemingly obvious talent gap between these two teams, it’s also worth mentioning the Pats’ have won 24 of their last 25 regular season games at Gillette Stadium and the Seahawks have lost 13 of their last 15 games on the road.
Since it seems highly unlikely Kolb can keep up with Tom Brady through the air, it seems paramount the Cardinals establish some kind of running game for any hope of pulling off the upset. Or beating the 13.5-point spread. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear in the cards for Arizona.
Running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams combined for just 23 yards on 15 carries against Seattle and the sledding figures to be much tougher against New England. The Pats’ re-stocked the defensive side of the ball this offseason with free agent signings and using their first three picks in the NFL Draft all on defenders. It paid off against Tennessee. The Pats’ run defense was extremely stout, which makes a night-and-day difference from a year ago when the New England defense was much-maligned.
Arizona is certainly getting plenty of points in this one, but New England’s dominance at home and the Cardinals’ road woes are a concern. Additionally, when Brady and company get the collar on their opponents a blowout often ensues. We’ll take New England and lay the 13.5-points in our NFL picks.