|Setting the scene: Patriots-Cardinals||09.16.12 at 9:34 am ET|
FOXBORO — Ideal conditions are expected for the Patriots home opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Sunny skies and temperatures reaching 70 degrees are expected for the 1 p.m. kickoff as the Patriots look to improve to 2-0 on the season. Wind should not be a significant factor as there will be a breeze out of the northwest of seven miles an hour.
The Patriots are a perfect 10-0 in home openers at Gillette Stadium, dating back to the win on Monday Night Football in 2002 when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first game as defending Super Bowl champions. They have won 15 of their last 17 home openers.
The Patriots haven’t lost a home opener since Bill Belichick‘s second year in New England, when they were beaten by the New York Jets, 10-3. The 10-game streak, like their nine-game winning streak in openers overall, is the longest such streak in the NFL.
The Patriots have beaten the Cardinals five straight times, the longest current winning streak against an opponent. This is the fifth time the Patriots are playing an NFC opponent in a home opener but the first time since losing to Tampa Bay in 2000. New England has also opened the season at home against an NFC opponent in 1978 (Washington), 1985 (Green Bay) and the Cardinals (1996).
The Patriots have seven players listed as questionable with the most notable being starting right guard Dan Connolly. He suffered a head injury serving as fullback on Stevan Ridley‘s one-yard TD run against Tennessee. Connolly returned to full pads practice on Thursday and was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday. If he doesn’t play, expect Donald Thomas to take his spot at right guard, with Marcus Cannon a possibility as a back-up.
But Cannon might be the starting right tackle if Sebastian Vollmer can’t go because of his chronically sore back. Vollmer was also one of the questionable seven for the Patriots. Also questionable are running back Shane Vereen (foot), Nick McDonald (shoulder), Sterling Moore (knee), Daniel Fells (shin) and rookie DB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring). All were limited in practice on Thursday and Friday.
With one catch today, Wes Welker will pass the newest member of the Patriots Hall of Fame – Troy Brown – and become the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions. Both Welker and Brown are tied at 557.
For the Cardinals, they are expected to start Kevin Kolb at quarterback. Kolb came in last Sunday in relief of John Skelton and led the Cardinals on a game-winning fourth-quarter drive. Skelton injured his right ankle and did not practice this week. He was officially listed as doubtful on Arizona’s injury report on Friday and will likely be inactive for the game.
Before the 2011 season, Kolb was signed to a six-year, $63.5 million contract, with $12 million guaranteed, to be the starting quarterback in Arizona. Kolb suffered a toe injury late in the season last year and Skelton came on to replace him. This year, Kolb was again designated the starting quarterback but suffered a bruised rib in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, allowing Skelton to win the starter’s job.
The Cardinals are 8-2 over their last 10 regular season games. Only the Patriots – at 9-1 – are better in the NFL.
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