Coming off a strong defensive effort and escaping with a victory in Week 1, the Arizona Cardinals will head into New England to face a well-balanced Patriots team.
During the last two years, in 2010 and 2011, the Patriots were ranked 25th and 31st in total defense, and therefore the pressure was placed on Tom Brady and the offense to win games by racking up points.
This offseason, however, there was a lot of talk about the Patriots' revamped defense taking a step in the right direction, thanks in large part to their two first-round draft picks, Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower.
Jones plays defensive end while Hightower is an outside linebacker, and both of them started in Week 1 and made an immediate impact against the Tennessee Titans.
With 11:13 left in the second quarter and the Patriots leading 7-3, Tennessee was backed up on their own seven-yard line while facing a long third down.
The Titans' quarterback, Jake Locker, snapped the ball and was looking to pass down field, but was instead forced to the ground by the flying Jones, who came around the corner so fast that I thought Dwight Freeney had changed uniforms.
Not only did the rookie out of Syracuse get around the edge with such speed and force, but he was able to do so regardless of the fact that he was lined up against one of the better offensive tackles in the league, Michael Roos, the three-time All-Pro.
In addition to the sack, Jones was able to knock the ball out of Locker's hand and create a fumble, which was then picked up by Hightower and returned for a touchdown.
Not bad for a pair of rookies.
Due to the success that these two guys and the rest of the defense had against Tennessee, including holding the Titans to only 20 yards rushing for the game, the Cardinals look to be in big trouble.
With that said, here are three bold predictions for Sunday's matchup.
1. The Patriots will hold the Cardinals to under 50 yards rushing.
Last week, Arizona was one of six teams to rush for under 50 yards. Though they did face an excellent defense in Seattle, look for their struggles to continue against an up and coming Patriots defense that is built to stop the run.
On top of New England proving that their rushing defense is effective, the Cardinals are also in trouble as a result of not being respected in the passing game.
Kevin Kolb will most likely get the start, and while he did lead his team down the field for a game-winning drive against the Seahawks in Week 1, look for the Patriots' defense to nonetheless stack the box with eight or nine guys and make Kolb beat them with his arm.
2. The Patriots' defense will hold the Cardinals' offense to under 250 yards.
This prediction is due to three things - the Patriots' defense looks solid, the game is being played in New England, and we are talking about the Cardinals' offense.
Cardinals fans hope I'm wrong, but it is hard for me to see this offense consistently moving the chains without a running game, despite the fact that Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best players in the league. On top of that, the offensive line has too many question marks and Kolb will be under duress all day.
3. Tom Brady will throw two interceptions.
The Cardinals' defense is a force to be reckoned as well, and I expect their front four to get a fair amount of pressure on Brady. Given the fact that the Patriots' offensive line is a work in progress, it would not surprise me to see the two-time MVP having to make quick decisions and in turn throwing a couple of picks.
Over the last two seasons, Brady has only thrown 16 interceptions, but the Cardinals' defense is very capable of changing that.
Prediction: Despite Brady throwing a couple of picks, the Patriots will have their way with the Cardinals, winning 38-10.
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