Patriots: 3 things to watch against the Cardinals Sunday

The last time the Cardinals visited New England (2008), the Patriots pounded Arizona 47-7.

Three things to watch as the Patriots look to go 2-0 on the 2012 season with Arizona in town Sunday:

Watch out for Fitzy 
For as many great receivers that the Patriots have, none of them can say they’re better than Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald. Regarded by many in the NFL as the best receiver in the game, Fitzgerald poses a massive threat to the Patriots secondary due to his size and speed. It’s too bad he’s played with subpar QBs his entire his career, but that makes his numbers even more impressive. 
“I think the biggest word for us is ‘compete.’” Pats cornerback Devin McCourty said. “Without a doubt he’s going to make some plays but we have to go out there and challenge him each play.” 

Don’t sleep on the ‘D’
As good as Fitzgerald is, it’s the Arizona defense that has allowed the Cardinals to go 8-2 in their last 10 games dating back to last season. Last week against Seattle, they stopped the Seahawks in the closing seconds of the game, even with the replacement referees accidently allowing Seattle an extra timeout. 

“Of course they’re the best red area defense in the league over the last two years,” Bill Belichick said. “We saw that again last week against Seattle. It’s hard to score on them. [Adrian] Wilson is an outstanding player: one of the best in the league. Makes a lot of tackles in the running game; makes a lot of them for little or no gain.” 

Defending Gillette
Home is where the heart is . . . and also where the wins are. The Patriots have been the best home team in the NFL since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, and 2012 doesn’t look to be any different. Since ’02, the Pats are an NFL-best 67-13 at Gillette in the regular season and 18-2 against NFC teams. Their point differential is 826, 100 points more than the second-place Ravens. Add the fact that it’s their home opener and it should – should – be a smooth ride for New England on Sunday. 

Troy Brown will be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame on Saturday, perhaps the worthiest of candidates. But his reign as the Patriots all-time leader in receptions should come to an end the next day. Wes Welker needs one more reception to pass Brown as Patriots all-time reception leader at 558 catches. 


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