Patriots Outlook for Home Opener

Christine Roy
September 14, 2012 at 11:23am ET

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Larry Fitzgerald got some love this week from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. At his weekly press conference, he praised the wide receiver as one of the best, even saying he "might end up being the best one ever." That kind of statement shows the amount of respect Belichick has for this player. Fitzgerald was surprised with the remarks saying it's an honor Belichick knew his name and that he is "arguably the best coach to ever do it." Some strong words of praise from both sides before their matchup on Sunday.

In Arizona there are a lot of questions surrounding the quarterback position. The starting job hasn't been given to either John Skelton or Kevin Kolb. Last week Skelton was carted off the field after suffering a low ankle sprain in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks and Kolb came in to lead the team on an 80 yard drive to win the game. From a consistency standpoint, it is difficult for a team to rally around an offensive leader that is constantly changing. From a player standpoint, it can't be good for your confidence to feel as though your coach doesn't trust you enough to give you the starting job outright. However on the other side of that, Skelton and Kolb could use this situation to their advantage and play like they have nothing to lose. For Kolb, who will start on Sunday against the Patriots, he's going to need all the confidence he can muster, going up against a defense that had an outstanding week one performance.

Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense will likely be challenged by a Cardinals offense that features Larry Fitzgerald. (FILE:USPresswire)
The Patriots absolutely shut down the Tennessee Titans run game last Sunday. This week they will look to do that again. With each passing week players get more familiar with each other's playing style and become more effective as a unit. However, there is no sense in thinking that the defense of week one is going to be the defense we see all season. There will be some highs and lows and as Belichick also said in his press conference, when it comes to the rookies, "Are you kidding me? They've played one game." On Sunday we will see if this defense really has changed or if it was merely a mismatch last Sunday.

The biggest and most important job the defense will have on Sunday is shutting down Fitzgerald. Devin McCourty got lucky on a blatant pass interference call last week and should he be the player to matchup with Fitzgerald, he will have to be careful. The Patriots are going to have to double up the coverage of Fitzgerald because he is just that good. It's easy to lose him on the line and he can catch any ball that is thrown in his direction. With that being said, that means somebody will be left open. It will be up to the secondary to make the necessary adjustments and make sure what they are taking away hurts the Cardinals more than what they are leaving open.

On the offensive side of the ball, the o-line is going to have their hands full. The Cardinals run a tough defense with blitzes and quick changing coverage. They have some powerhouses on their defensive line, including defensive end Calais Campbell. He is a big guy standing at 6'8" and weighing in at 300lb so the Patriots offensive line will have to do their part to keep him away from their quarterback. His long arms are sure to bat down a few balls on Sunday. Look for the Patriots passing game to be more of the star this week. Tom Brady will have to be at his best to read what the Arizona defense is throwing at him.

Overall the Patriots will be the better team on Sunday. They have the ability to adapt as the game progresses and I think we will see that this week. It may start out as a close game but come the second half the Patriots will be in full control. It's the home opener and with the induction of Troy Brown into the Patriots Hall of Fame, emotions are sure to be high. The Pats need to feed off the energy of Gillette Stadium and continue the style of play we saw last week.