The Arizona Cardinals, coming off of a big road win over division rival St Louis, have won two straight and sit at 3-2 atop the NFC West. Likewise, the Carolina Panthers are coming off of consecutive road wins over division rivals Atlanta and New Orleans, and they also are at 3-2 through week 5. This weekend’s matchup in Glendale is a contest between two very similar ballclubs.
Both have lost their starting QBs for the year, but have very capable back-ups to guide them the rest of the season. Both have tremendous playmakers at the WR position. Carolina features all pro Steve Smith, while Arizona features two all pro wide outs in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin (but his status is still unknown). Both teams have solid running games and feature a balanced attack on offense.
So what is going to be the key to victory in this week’s game? I’m glad you asked:
1. Cards need to control the line of scrimmage
Whoever wins the battle in the trenches is going to win the game, plain and simple. Carolina features a versitle running back tandem with DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams. Foster is a between the tackles, power runner, while Williams is an edge runner that can make people miss in space. Meanwhile, Arizona is sporting the NFC’s leading rusher (yeah you heard me) in Edgerrin James, who is running with power and making people miss by quickly reading his blocks and making the right cuts for positive yards. But all of the skills of these guys mean nothing if the big boys up front don’t get it done. Rookie OT Levi Brown is still out for this weekend, but his back up Elton Brown, who has played well will get the start. Warner has been sacked only one time in his last 70 drop backs, and the effectiveness of Arizona’s ground game give the Cards the edge in this department. What a difference a year and a new coach make!!
2. Play to your strength and pass the ball
Arizona may have balance now, but let’s be honest, the strength of this team is the passing game. With Kurt Warner distributing the ball around to guys like Fitz and Bryant Johnson, this offense has the potential to put up some big numbers. So keep running the 4 receiver sets, spread the defense out and get the slot receivers involved. Fitz is leading the NFC with 34 receptions and 434 yards, so he will probably see alot of double coverage. But I think the big opportunity here is to take advantage of Carolina with the screens and draws. They are an aggressive defense and the Cards can use that to their advantage by hitting Edge or JJ Arrington with the underneath throws and let them use their blockers to pick up big yardage.
3. Steve Smith…….DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF HIM FOR A SECOND!
He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s got great hands and his motor never stops running. CB Rod Hood did great against Torry Holt last week, but Steve Smith is an entirely different animal. If you take a single play off, he will make you pay. So, in order to counter his abilities, I say never give him a free release off of the line. Bump and cover, everytime with the FS over top. If he gets a free release, he will make things happen. But if he is challenged everytime he steps up to the line, then maybe we can shut him down.
4. Get Adrian Wilson in the backfield Clancy!
A Dub has made some big plays in the last two weeks, but mostly in pass coverage. He has had consecutive games in which he hauled in game changing interceptions against Pittsburgh (in the endzone) and St Louis (to set up the winning TD). But with the likelihood that Carolina is going to be starting either a rookie QB (Matt Moore) or an aging & immobile veteran (Vinny Testeverde) in place of the injured David Carr, it’s time to let Wilson tee off on these QBs. Both are new to their respective offenses, as Testeverde was signed on Wednesday this week and Moore is still learning. They will be overwhelmed and likely to commit turnovers if we ratchet up the pressure. So we need to turn Wilson loose……are you reading this Clancy Pendergast?
The Cards have been stellar at home, getting consecutive wins over quality ballclubs in Pittsburgh and Seattle. I think they continue their trend of home field advantage and dominate Carolina on Sunday. Cards improve to 4-2 and remain in first place. GO CARDS!!
Topics: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals, Bryant Johnson, Carolina Panthers, Clancy Pendergast, David Carr, Deangelo Williams, Deshaun Foster, Edgerrin James, Elton Brown, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Matt Moore, Nfc West, Rod Hood, Steve Smith, Torry Holt, Vinny Testeverde