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Jim McCabe of The Boston Globe looks ahead to Sunday's game with the Arizona Cardinals, asserting that the Patriots have little to worry about. "Surely, the redbirds rank as a mystery team, but fear not, we are here today to give you a brief glance at this amazing franchise. As in amazingly bad. Amazingly inept. Amazingly inferior," writes McCabe.
Also in the Globe, Joe Burris spotlights Cardinals running back Emmitt Smith, the league's all-time leading rusher. "What does a 35-year-old Superman do when he's not ready to hang up the cape?" muses Burris. "He works to harness his remaining might, concentrates his efforts to fewer tasks, and in the process proves he does not have to recapture all of his past dominance to be successful."
Burris also looks at first-round draft pick Vince Wilfork, who is helping the team's overall depth by learning a new position. "Wilfork came to the Patriots this offseason as a defensive lineman, meaning that in college he was accustomed to working his way to the opponent's backfield when the ball was snapped," writes Burris. "But New England's first-round draft pick is now playing nose tackle, which means he must stay put and keep a crease from forming in the middle."
In The Boston Herald, Michael Felger takes on the Wilfork situation as well, noting that the rookie was thrown right into the proverbial fire in last Thursday night's opener. "Suddenly, Wilfork was seeing a large amount of playing time at nose tackle and defensive end. Suddenly, Wilfork was on the field for a crucial goal-line stand, coming up with a Edgerrin James fumble to preserve the Pats' 16th consecutive victory," Felger writes.
In his Patriots notebook, Felger reports that rookie tight end Ben Watson did not practice yesterday, making his status questionable for Sunday's game. Other topics include Bill Belichick's relationship with All-Pro safety Rodney Harrison, and Belichick's appearance on Sunday night's 60 Minutes.
In USA Today, Tom Pedulla checks in on the Patriots winning streak, which now sits at 16 games. "The record-breaker could come Oct. 10, at home against Miami, which has uncertainty at two of the worst possible positions, quarterback and running back. The Dolphins share with four others the NFL record for the longest winning streak at 18," writes Pedulla.
It is very interesting that the Patriots will have a chance to set the record against Miami, as many members of the 1972 Dolphins consider the Patriots streak to be flawed because it has stretched over two seasons. "Because the Dolphins won every game in 1972 -- regular season and playoffs -- and the other streaks began during a season, through the playoffs and into the following year, those old-school Miami players scoff at teams they feel are pretenders to their throne," writes Tom Curran in today's Providence Journal.
Also in the Journal, Curran looks at Deion Branch, who is fast becoming one of the league's elite receivers, as well as a favorite target of Tom Brady. "Brady develops bonds with all of his receivers, but Branch is a player Brady seems to have extra confidence in," writes Curran.
On the other side of the field this weekend will be receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals first-round draft pick, and the third pick overall. Fitzgerald, a product of the University of Pittsburgh, caught four balls for 70 yards last week in his regular-season debut. As Chris Kennedy points out in The Republican, Fitzgerald "may have only played one regular-season game in the NFL, but he has already done enough to impress the New England Patriots."
Ian Clark of The Union Leader looks ahead to Sunday's game with an eye on the halftime ceremonies honoring Pat Tillman. "Once again there will be a focus on activities other than football during the New England Patriots game on Sunday. But unlike last week's extravagant kickoff hoopla, Sunday's ceremony will have a much different tone to it," writes Clark.
In The Woonsocket Call, Michael Parente highlights the Cardinals defense, which, though young, kept them in last week's game against St. Louis. "The only thing that kept the Cardinals from getting blown out was the fact their defense forced three turnovers," writes Parente. "They would've had four - along with a win - had James Darling's 95-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter not been negated because of a penalty."