At the start of the season, a look at the Patriots schedule looked tough just before the bye week. Their last two games before the break were against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos and then on the road against an up-and-coming power in Arizona.
Last Sunday New England beat a Denver team that has had a disappointing year. This weekend, the Patriots travel to play a talented Cardinals team that has experienced growing pains. After reaching the postseason for the first time since 1982 last season, Arizona has stumbled out to a 2-4 start.
New England is looking past the records. They feel there is more to this team than the average person notices.
"That's the difference between what we see and what [media and fans] see. Y'all see records, and we see the players," said New England safety Chris Carter. "They have some guys who can light it up at any given time on either side of the ball. They have defensive personnel that can shut down the greatest offense, and they have offensive personnel that can score on any defense. What we're looking at is a team that can really hurt us if we don't go out there ready to play."
The Cardinals rank third in the league in passing defense. They have a strong defensive line led by ends Simeon Rice and Andre Wadsworth, and tackle Eric Swann will make the line better as he works back into the rotation after missing nearly a year with an injury.
While they are strong against the pass, Arizona ranks 28th in rush defense. On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals rank last in the league running the ball with 68.7 yards per game. Despite Arizona's problems on the ground, Carter said the Patriots can't concentrate solely on stopping receivers Rob Moore, Frank Sanders and David Boston.
"If you focus all of your energies on the passing game, you'll get hurt in the running game," Carter said. "You can't go out there and focus on one thing. What we want to do is go out and play a complete game. We want to mix up our [defensive] plans and stop both phases of the game. We can't just go out and stop one part of their offense and forget about the other."