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The Arizona Cardinals, in search of their third-straight victory, will head into EverBank Field on Sunday to battle the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville stunned the NFL world last week as they defeated the Tennessee Titans 29-27 to earn their first victory of the season. If the Cardinals hope to avoid a defeat at Jacksonville, they should follow this simple game plan:
Run the ball:
Entering this game, the Jaguars are ranked last in the league against the run allowing 153 yards per game on the ground. This is the time for Arizona’a running backs to step up and carry the Cardinals. The Cardinals have been mediocre running the ball and have only had one dominant performance on the ground, coming against Atlanta, when Andre Ellington had a 154 yard performance. Look for Rashard Mendenhall to perhaps have a big game, coming off of his disappointing performance last week against Houston. If the Cardinals can pound the rock early and establish a lead, then Arizona doesn’t need to throw the ball often. After all, it’s no coincidence that on their mini two-game winning streak, Palmer has only thrown the ball 18- and 34-times and has seen a significant increase in his QB rating.
Keep your foot on the pedal:
Jacksonville is not to be taken lightly. When teams peruse through their schedule and see the Jaguars, they may view it as a game to coast to victory. That said, this is a road game and the Jags will be hungry, coming off of their first victory of the year. Arizona has to come out and dominate Jacksonville from the beginning of the game. It will be interesting to see if Carson Palmer can have a solid performance for an entire 60-minute football game. Don’t let Jacksonville hang around and put them away early.
Stack the box:
Maurice Jones-Drew remains Jacksonville’s biggest offensive threat, although he remains a shell of his former self. Since 2011, Jones-Drew has not had double-digit touchdowns in a season. In fact, he is on pace to have the worst season of his career, averaging just 3.0 ypc through the first 10 games of this season. Furthermore, Jones-Drew has failed to eclipse the 75-yard mark this season (remind you of Mendenhall, doesn’t it?) and has just 3 touchdowns on the year. The Cardinals have a great run defense and have only allowed a 100 yard rusher once the entire year (Frank Gore). By stacking the box with eight or nine defenders, Arizona will limit the space available Jones-Drew .
Make Henne make plays:
The Jaguars are offensively challenged. If the Cardinals stop Jones-Drew, which I expect them to do, Jacksonville must rely on a below-average QB to make plays. Chad Henne has a pair of 300-yard games to his credit this season but has been inconsistent, throwing for just three touchdown passes to his seven interceptions. Henne will have it tough this week against a stingy Cardinals defense. Justin Blackmon has been suspended for the remainder of the season, making Cecil Shorts III Jacksonville’s biggest weapon in the throwing game. However, Patrick Peterson will be covering Shorts III, so Henne will likely have to look elsewhere to make plays. His best target is wide receiver Mike Brown, who has 15 receptions for 266 yards this season.
The Cardinals will play their most complete game of the year, dominating this game from start to finish. I expect Arizona to completely shun the run and limit Chad Henne’s effectiveness in the air. Look for the defense to come away with another multi-turnover game and set the tone for the game. I expect Palmer to be efficient and have his first turnover-free game of the season. Although Jacksonville will score their first touchdown of the year at home, Arizona will walk away victorious.
Arizona 31 Jacksonville 10