Game time: Sunday, Sept. 16, 1p.m. ET, Gillette Stadium
Weather: Low-70s, mostly sunny
Records: Cardinals (1-0), Patriots (1-0)
When the Patriots have the ball. After what running back Steven Ridley did to the Titans last week (21 rushes for 125 yards) this is no longer a one-dimensional offense. Instead, it was a throwback to those days of a balanced attack that featured equal parts Tom Brady and Corey Dillon. Of course, New England has shown it can win in a variety of ways, even if it means throwing the ball 50 times a game with the full understanding that the opponents already know this.
Will see more of Ridley against the Cardinals, one of the NFC's best defenses, if for no other reason than he's a legitimate weapon out of the backfield and he makes the other skill position players -- Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd among them -- even more dangerous. Think about that for a second -- it's not like Brady needed the help but that's exactly what an above-average running game provides. Coach Bill Belichick took some heat last year for using second- and third-round picks on running backs (Shane Vereen went in Round 2 with Ridley following a round later). Now he looks pretty smart. Imagine that.
The biggest issue going into this game -- at least as far as media and fantasy players are concerned -- will be Welker's involvement. He caught just three passes for 14 yards last week but that was a function of what the Titans were doing defensively and not a sudden shift in offensive philosophy.
When the Cardinals have the ball. Two words: Kevin Kolb. He's back in the lineup after Week 1 starter John Skelton tweaked his ankle in the victory over the Seahawks. Since joining Arizona prior to the 2011 season and signing a $63 million extension, Kolb has been disastrous. So bad, in fact, that the Cardinals wanted Peyton Manning this spring and eventually settled on Skelton, who outplayed Kolb in the preseason. This could be the last best chance for Kolb in Arizona -- and possibly the NFL. But he'll face a formidable task on the road in Foxboro against a suddenly rejuvenated (and young) Pats' defense.
Belichick likes to take away what the opponent does well, which means shutting down wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, which will force Kolb to beat the defending AFC Champs with his other targets. That's a tall task for the league's best quarterbacks, never mind one forced into the action by an injury.
ESPN analyst and former Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi basically confirmed as much in his weekly breakdown of the game.
"Coach Belichick will have something in the game plan with this in mind; he always does when there is an obvious No. 1 threat on a team," he said via ESPN.com. "They'll do everything to roll their coverage to jam him at the line of scrimmage, with a safety over the top. It's everything to get Fitzgerald out of the game plan and make other players beat you."
X Factor. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. While he's dangerous in the secondary he's a game-changer as a returner. He might be Arizona's best chance at an upset, although Vegas isn't convinced; they have the Pats winning by two touchdowns.