The Teams: Arizona Cardinals (8-6) At New England Patriots (9-5)
The Terms: Regular Season Week 16
The Place: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass
The Time: 1:00pm
The Channel: Fox
3 Burning Questions:
- Can the Patriots stop the Cardinals passing attack? The Pats effectiveness in stopping the Cardinals passing attack is the key to the game. The good news for Patriots fans is that Anquan Boldin – though he traveled with the team – likely will not play Sunday which takes one potent weapon off the table. However, Kurt Warner has two other receivers who are capable of big plays in Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston. Poor weather is in the forecast which could slow down Warner but the Patriots secondary will still have to play it’s best game to keep the score low. Because of the ability of the receivers the Pats are not going to be able to blitz that much on first or second down so getting some sort of pressure on Warner from the front seven is vital. I think Warner will be able to make completions and probably one or two big plays but with Boldin probably out, the weather being poor and the Cardinals’ complete inability to run the ball, the secondary will play well enough to keep the Pats in the game.
- Will there be a letdown for Matt Cassel? Certainly it’s been an emotional couple of weeks for Matt Cassel with the tragic passing of his father combined with an outstanding performance (218 yards, four touchdown passes) in last week’s critical win over Oakland. With the weather forecast calling for a mix of rain and snow throughout the day he will need to protect the ball as he’s done in the last half of the season. Turnovers are usually a deciding factor in poor weather games and if Cassel throws interceptions or fumbles in critical times the Patriots are toast. Thankfully, the Patriots offense employs schemes which are based on short passes so the winds (could be up to 25mph) won’t have as much of a factor on Cassel’s throws as they will Warner’s. In the last few months Cassel has shown the ability to effectively manage – and even win – a game for the Pats and I think he’ll protect the ball well enough against a pretty poor Arizona defense.
- In scoreboard watching, what are the chances Baltimore, the Jets or Miami lose? The Ravens win puts the Patriots in the unfortunate situation of needing help to make the playoffs. For the wild card, the Patriots need to win their final two games and have the Ravens lose to the Jaguars. To win the division, the Patriots need to win out and have the Jets and Miami each lose one of their final two games. Plain and simple, if the Jets and Dolphins both win today, the Patriots cannot win the division.As for the Dolphins and Jets in their games today, the Mean Green are playing a Seattle team who gave the Patriots problems two weeks ago and the Jets are 0-3 on the west coast this year. Brett Favre has suffered three poor performances in a row and now his team – who looked poised to have taken ‘the AFC East torch’ from the Patriots just a few weeks back – are on the brink of a pretty bad collapse. If not for Dick Jauron’s idiocy and J.P. Losman’s horribleness last week, the Jets would be on the outside looking in. Miami is playing at the 2-12 Chiefs, which on paper looks like an easy win but it’s important to note that the Dolphins have not played a single game in cold weather this year. Not one. The forecast for Kansas City at kickoff tomorrow? A mild 12° with a -5° windchill. I think despite these factors, both the Jets and Dolphins will win by close margins as they have been doing recently because let’s face it, the Seahawks and Chiefs only combine for five wins from 28 games this year.
It’s another tough game to call this week because of the potential explosiveness of the Cardinals offense. What the Patriots have going for them is Boldin’s injury, weather conditions and the fact Arizona has clinched their division with little chance of improving their playoff seeding. The Patriots have to win the game and in front of a raucous home crowd in the snow against a team who hasn’t played in Foxboro since 1996 (when I was 11), it sure has a old school Patriots feel to it. The defense will bend against the passing attack but third downs will be an issue for the Cardinals because of their inability to run the football. Offensively the Pats will be able to run the ball on Arizona as they did last week when they ran all over the Raiders. Sammy Morris, Lamont Jordan and Kevin Faulk all look to be healthy and they each bring a different skill set to the table. I see Cassel throwing in the 175 yard range with a touchdown or two and the running game to rack up another 250 yards. There is just too much going against the Cardinals in this one and hopefully the Jets or Dolphins give the Patriots some hope to win the division.
Patriots 30, Cardinals 20
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Bill Belichick, Brett Favre, J.P. Losman, Kevin Faulk, Kurt Warner, Lamont Jordan, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Cassel, Patriots, Sammy Morris, Steve Breaston