Keys to a Cards Win:
To keep up with tradition, I should remind you guys that all fans at SBNation are encouraged to post pictures of their cheer-leaders when they are being hosted for an away game.
1) Slow down Gronk.
He is arguably the most important piece of the Patriots offense. He is as versatile as advertised, the kind of TE that cheers with glee when he successfully blocks Haloti Ngata one on one. The kind of TE that chip-blocks Terrelle Suggs so hard the Defensive POY ends up on the ground while Gronk runs a check-down route towering over Safeties and out-eluding LineBackers. Whether it's the passing-game on the running-game, someone needs to be in Gronkowski's face from the get go at the line of scrimmage. Give him a free-release and he'll either run-block the daylights out of someone or catch a ball down the middle of the field and fight for YACs, as he did dozes upon dozens of times last year.
2) Blitz at your own risk.
Gronkowski is a good offensive weapon(and from UA) but that Tom Brady guy isn't bad either. The interesting thing about Tom Brady is how good he is at the arts of quarterbacking. What this means is if you even think about blitzing he may very well tear it apart by using his elite pocket-presence and mechanics to dink and dunk the opposing-D to death. Besides for Brandon Lloyd working from the outside Brady has the Big-3 as I call them to tear apart the middle in Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez who literally plays every offensive position besides line and QB. The D's that have success against Brady are the ones that rush 2-4 guys and keep the rest in a mixture of coverages. Let Brady see you blitz and he'll kill you with a timing-route, so like we covered with the 1st key, disrupt the weapons early and often. Don't believe me? Check the numbers Brady puts up vs. 4 or fewer and vs. 5 or more rushers. You can't count on hitting him in the first 2.5 seconds after the snap.
Against QBs with great pocket presence, the best form of pressure is not edge pressure but pressure from up the middle.
3) Have respect for the Patriots run-game.
Offensive line turmoil? Arizona and New England appear to have something in common! Except the Patriots have Dante Scarranechia, widely considered one of the best if not the best OLine coach in the league. As for the run-game, I know few think the Pats have one, but they did draft a couple of guys last year. BenJarvis GreenEllis signed with Cincy and he wasn't a bad RB. The guy literally never fumbled. However, he doesn't have NFL talent to excel at the position. Great hands and zero explosion means a lot of 3 YPC games. Sophmore Stevan Ridley out of LSU went into Tennessee behind the Pats OLine and got 125 yards, averaging about 6 yards per attempt. Respect it, but not too much or else Brady will run some play-action to open the field up for Gronk, Hernandez, Welker, or Lloyd. Lots of weapons.
4) Have respect for the Pats D.
They're healthy and a lot deeper than last year. The Patriots have one elite(Vince Wilfork) and one very-good(Kyle Love) run-stuffer in the middle of a predominately 43 front. At RDE is rookie Chandler Jones who has so far man-handled Pro-Bowlers Jermon Bushrod and Donald Penn in preseason. At Tennessee he made life Hell for Michael Roos, a very good LT. On obvious passing situations Jermaine Cunningham moves inside where he's been finding success, mustering a sack and then a holding call off of Steve Hutchison. Behind this line are the best trio of LBs the Pats have had since the Dynasty Days in Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Dont'a Hightower. With much better depth at Safety and CB the Pats D looks nothing like the D from last year which featured about 1,000 different starters between Weeks 1 and 17.
How promising do they look? They got the same stat line on the road that Baltimore had at home.
5) Be ready for adjustments.
Belichick always makes mid-game adjustments as the game progresses. He's good at it and it prevents the scheme from becoming too predictable.
I know it sounds harsh, but the Cards have to travel across the country with a run-game that struggled at home to take on a run-D that held Chris Johnson to one foot per carry.
A good Safety and a couple of good ILBs may go a long way against the Pats Big-3 in the middle of the field, but that rests on Patrick Peterson progressing in his battling of Brandon Lloyd on the outside.
Kevin Kolb is best at the no-huddle? Well that's a bad match-up when taking on a good Offense on the road. Why? They'll be points scored by the Pats and a very loud stadium trying to make it impossible for those Arizona receivers out-wide to hear Kolb's play-calling. The no-huddle works best at home unless the O can silence the crowd on the road. Meaning, make some big plays.
Hope for Patrick Peterson to score on STs? Pats got an excellent coverage-unit, starting with Pro-Bowler Matthew Slater. Thankfully for the Cards, the Pats are just as mediocre on returns as the Cards are at covering them.
Questions and cheer-leader pictures below, please. Thanks, and good luck on shocking the world.