Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at New England Patriots (0-1)
Kevin Kolb looked good in relief of an injured John Skelton last week, leading the game winning drive to beat the Seahawks, but the Seahawks are a mediocre to average team that always seems to flop on the road. The Patriots in Foxboro are going to obviously be a much tougher challenge. The offense has taken on new dimensions with the addition of Brandon Lloyd as a deep threat, the promotion of the more explosive Stevan Ridley at running back, and the re-addition of Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator; they didn’t even need Wes Welker in the opener.
Welker barely did anything. They have so many weapons that it didn’t even matter. They can still have a great game even if one of their top 4 receivers doesn’t do anything. Tom Brady looks as good as ever and the offensive line, a concern heading into the game, held up just enough to allow everyone else enough time to keep open and Tom Brady to find them.
Defensively, they seem to be much improved from last season. Last year, like the Packers, they gave up a bunch of yards like the Packers did, but did alright defensively because they forced a bunch of turnovers. Forcing a bunch of turnovers is not something that’s reliable on a yearly basis, but unlike the Packers, the Patriots’ defense seems to have gotten even better, particularly in the front 7; their secondary may still have some questions, but they have a big, physical offensive front with Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Rod Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo and adequate depth.
They can get pressure against anyone, pressuring Locker on 14 of 36 dropbacks, against a Tennessee offensive line that surrendered the 2nd fewest sacks in the league last year, and they are fierce against the run, holding to 20 yards rushing on 16 attempts, with 11 of those coming on 2 quarterback scrambles.
This doesn’t bode well for the Cardinals. The Cardinals found no running home against a tough Seahawks run defense last week, rushing for 43 yards on 20 carries and this week shouldn’t be much difference. Meanwhile, they have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, so the Patriots should be able to get pressure on Kevin Kolb early and often, which is a very bad thing for the Cardinals.
Even though Kolb looked decent in very limited action last week, leading a game winning drive, it doesn’t change the fact that Kolb has very poor pocket presence. Kolb took a sack on 26.1% of pressured dropbacks last year, 3rd worst among eligible quarterbacks, and in 2010 he was 6th, taking one on 23.2% of pressured drop backs. Even with the Patriots’ less than stellar secondary, Kolb should have trouble consistently moving the ball against the Patriots’, unsupported by a running game, and since the Patriots’ offense can put pressure on the opposing offense better than maybe any team in the league, he could be forced into several turnovers.
This should be a very easy win for the Patriots, especially since the Cardinals are travelling across the country to play 1 PM ET start as a West Coast team, a situation teams tend to struggle in. The Patriots are one of the best teams in the league and the Cardinals are one of the worst. This isn’t a very big bet, because this is a huge line, but all signs point to this being a blowout. This is also my choice for survivor pick of the week, for anyone who does that type of thing (last week, it was Houston).
Public lean: New England (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Arizona covers)
New England Patriots 38 Arizona Cardinals 10 Survivor Pick
Pick against spread: New England Patriots -14 (-110) 1 unit