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While many in the media are projecting an easy game for the Patriots Sunday against Arizona, Bill Belichick has made sure the team knows that if you don't bring everything you have to a game in the NFL, you will lose. As Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe writes, "The Cardinals are a rising team. The Patriots have been told to use caution. They buy it, hook, line, and sinker."
Cafardo also writes about the new weather-friendly shoulder pads that were on display in Monday night's Green Bay-Carolina game. Though they head into the desert for this weekend's showdown, the Patriots have not invested in the new pads. The pads can be hooked up to a machine when a player is off the field filling built-in tubes with either cold or hot air, depending on the climate. "Conditioning could be a concern," writes Cafardo. "Richard Seymour indicated last week that the Indianapolis game certainly tested New England's conditioning, as the regulars were sat out of the final exhibition game against Jacksonville and then had to play a full game against the Colts."
In The Boston Herald, Michael Felger points to the lack of game tape available on the Cardinals under Dennis Green. "The Cardinals under Green represent a pamphlet, which is why Belichick has pulled out tapes of Green's work with Minnesota. And it turns out many of the same things apply to what Green is doing with the Cards, with an emphasis on three-receiver sets and an offense based on a pass-first philosophy," writes Felger.
The Cardinals will not be the only team in the desert sporting wide-receiver weaponry, as the Patriots have put together one of the league's deepest and most versatile corps. "If anyone knows fast receivers, it's Arizona coach Dennis Green," writes Felger in his notebook. "So, when Green said yesterday that the Patriots may have the fastest group of receivers in the league, it was hard not to take note."
In his Patriots Insider, Felger comments on the continuing heroics of Tom Brady, updates who will be out of Sunday's game, and previews a key match-up between Deion Branch and Cardinals cornerback Duane Starks.
In The Providence Journal, Bill Reynolds features running back Corey Dillon, who was more pleased with the Patriots win over the Colts than with his 15 carries for 86 yards. "So there was Dillon saying yesterday how he knew from the minute he arrived in Foxboro that things were different here. The organization. The attitude. The expectations. Everything," writes Reynolds. "There was Dillon saying how happy he is to be here, whether he gets the ball all the time or whether he starts the game standing on the sideline, as he did the other night when the Pats elected to open with the passing game."
Also in the Journal, Kevin McNamara looks toward this weekend's ceremony honoring Pat Tillman. "Tillman's death still, obviously, has gripped the Tempe area and Cardinals fans. He was a star player at Arizona State and a favorite of teammates and fans. Members of Tillman's family will be at the game, and his jersey will be retired at halftime," writes McNamara.
McNamara previews the impact Emmitt Smith may have on Sunday's game. The NFL's all-time leading rusher, Smith had a good game in Week 1, showing that he still has something left in the tank at age 35. "Through one game, the veteran is drawing rave reviews. In the Cards' opener last week at St. Louis, Smith ran 16 times for 87 yards and scored Arizona's only TD on an 11-yard run in the third quarter. The 87 yards were his highest output in two seasons with the Cards," writes McNamara.
Michael Parente also features Emmitt Smith in The Woonsocket Call. Parente points out that stopping Smith will be key, as their run defense was less than stellar against Indianapolis. "As long as the Patriots can stop idolizing [Smith] long enough to tackle him on Sunday, they'll be in much better shape than they were last week," writes Parente. "Despite beating Indianapolis in their season opener, the Patriots gave up 202 rushing yards to Edgerrin James and Dominic Rhodes and didn't seal the win until Mike Vanderjagt missed a 48-yard field goal in the closing seconds."
In The Hartford Courant, Alan Greenberg writes on another aspect of the Pats game that has yet to reach full speed, the return game. The miscue by Branch on a short punt in the fourth quarter nearly cost the team the game against the Colts, and regular punt returner Troy Brown is still out with an injury. "As bad as the Patriots' punt returning has been, their kick returning hasn't been much better," writes Greenberg.
Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News dissects the Cardinals three-receiver set, and suggests some of the options the Patriots will have to defend against it. "While the three-wide set is most definitely oriented to the pass, what is often overlooked is its value in the running game. Consider that the bulk of Arizona's rushing yards (103 yards, 23 carries) Sunday against the Rams came out of the three-wide alignment, as the St. Louis defense was spread across the field," Reiss writes.
Finally, take a look at SportsIllustrated.com's NFL Players Poll. 354 current and former players were asked questions about the NFL's head coaches. When asked who the best coach in the NFL is, 45% responded with Belichick. Runner-up? Belichick's mentor, Bill Parcells, with 9%.