Thursday, November 29, 2007

Okay, I'm Ready to Talk Now

Last Sunday was painful. For the first time, well, in as long as I can remember, the Cardinals were double digit favorites to win, but they didn't.

You know, people will blame Rackers for missing the late field goal, and they would be right. People might blame Barr for a poor punt that resulted in a 49ers score, and they would be right. They might blame Warner for not getting rid of the ball when his receiver was not open, and they would be right. Or maybe they will blame Whisenhunt for not getting a run off with six seconds left in the game, and they would be right.

But people probably are not blaming the special teams coverage that allowed a long return or the secondary (Rolle) that tried to make a special play but ended up allowing a special play. The fact is that this was yet another game where a whole collection of things gone wrong each could have made the difference, but they just didn't happen.

So be it.

Now, Cleveland comes to town with a very powerful offense to test this injury riddled defense. Heck, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr are on my fantasy team, but I still expect a victory for the home team. Why? Because I do.

Let's face it. The Cardinals are saddled with deep injuries on defense, two of them to Pro Bowlers (as Cardinals, no less), so Cleveland should be scoring early and often. Meanwhile, Q is at reduced capacity as is Warner, so any betting man would be stupid to back the Cardinals.

Just look for the word STUPID stenciled on my forehead Sunday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Think We Won Yesterday

I remember watching the game. It was heaven! Even when Cincinnati got on the board first with that beautiful pass, I didn't panic. Hey, the Cardinals haven't broken out to early leads as a rule.

Then, everything fell into place. I especially enjoyed the announcers pointing out that Cincinnati was preventing plays of 20 or more yards right before Warner throws a 44 yard touchdown pass to Boldin.

Just as surprising was the presence of Eric Green. I was under the impression that he would be missing in action, but his presence helped make the difference on a day when a good secondary was vital.

But the kicker was Rolle. He was everywhere, and Palmer just didn't seem to be able to keep track of him.

That said, I watched SportsCenter this morning, and by the end of the broadcast, I learned nothing about the game. Zilch. Zip. At the end Kenny Mayne made a quip about the Seahawks winning and division winners not being pictured, but apparently the Cardinal game didn't even rate that much of a mention. Nope, it was too important to devote around 20 minutes to a 56-10 blowout in the night game. It was more important to show all of the excitement in the Oakland/Minnesota game. And the Giants/Lions game may not have been able to boast an NFL record setting performance, but they did score 26 total points in the game.

Still biding my time. Maybe ESPN will deign to cover the game in Seattle next month.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Some Fear. Not too much, but some.

The Cardinals have been very good this year at home. In four contests, the team is 3-1 having beaten Seattle, Pittsburgh and Detroit, all teams with winning records. The one loss is an anomoly only in that Leinart had been put on IR earlier in the week, and Warner was injured on the second drive requiring Tim Rattay, who had been with the team less than a week, to lead the offense. In other words, it really doesn't count.

But on the road, the team is 1-4 with that only win coming against a hampered Rams team. True, slight changes in single plays against San Francisco and Washington would turn that around to 3-2 (and a bad call on an Adrian Wilson hit would have sent the Baltimore game into overtime), but the bottom line is that the team performs less impressively on the road.

Into this, we have a trip to play Cincinnati. The Bengals are having a rough year. Their offense is as potent as ever, but the defense has been suspect. This plays to an occasional strength for the Cardinals in that Arizona's offense has also been playing generally well. Unfortunately, the real difference maker for the team has been their defense, and the team is hampered right now. A cornerback (Green) down, a safety (Wilson) down, a lineman (Berry) down...if (when?) this defense steps up Sunday, you'll have a real tale of performance.

It's time for the Cards to thoroughly demoralize a team. Go Cards!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"If we're not playing, Lloyd'll call you right back..."

Just over two years ago, I happened to be browsing the Arizona Cardinals web site and came across a press release. Alltel was publicizing a store in Chandler by having Kurt Warner visit, sign autographs and record voice mail greetings for customers. Being an Alltel customer myself, I immediately dropped what I was doing to make the 80 minute drive to the store.

Ever since, I've had to warn friends and acquaintances that if they hear Kurt Warner answering on my voice mail, they should still leave a message. It makes for a great conversation as well.

I now have a pool table with a Cardinals logo on the surface, a neon light of the logo, a vanity plate on my car and other knick knacks too numerous to list, but the one people notice the most is when they get my voice mail and often remark that the voice sounds just like the real Kurt Warner.

Well, Alltel is doing it again, and has promised to provide Anquan Boldin (a previous appearance had to be cancelled) for the very same purpose. A reschedule of Q's appearance has not been announced, but in the mean time, they've announced that Darren Woodson would be at their store at Superstition Gateway East (1959 S Signal Butte Rd in Mesa) this Saturday (11/17) from Noon to 2PM. Yes, he played for the Cowboys, but he's a local guy who also helped out ASU in his college days. He's a class act, and if you're as much of a football nerd as I am, this could be fun.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Well, That Was Fun

Over the years at Sun Devil Stadium, season ticket sales for the Cardinals were pathetic. Typically, fewer than 20,000 were sold, and the stadium was mostly empty for the majority of games. With the move to the new stadium, all of the long time fans were the first to choose seats, but there just weren't that many of us. As a result, scalpers (as well as fans who buy more tickets than they need) are a significant portion of the season ticket holder pool.

In other words, entirely too many of the fans around me yesterday were fans of the Detroit Lions.

I'm typically quite polite to fans of opposing teams. I wish them well but, of course, hope they go home unhappy. Yesterday, the Lions fans were dishing big time. It's curious, of course, since Detroit boasts a history every bit as inept as the Arizona Cardinals have provided. You would think that they would be more reserved.

I heard everything. They criticized fans for wearing Vanden Bosch jerseys (okay, they were right about that one). They laughed about the fans cheering rushes of six yards (I'll take six yard runs any time), and they kept pointing out that the Lions are 6-2 while the Cards are 3-5. Hey Detroit fans, your team is 6-3 now, and here's a prediction for you: your team won't break .500 this year. Dallas will beat you, Green Bay will beat you twice, San Diego will beat you, the Giants will beat you. Detroit will be lucky to finish 8-8. Enjoy our dust.

And a big shout out to the defense. Sure there were plenty of turnovers, but every time the offense gave up a big one (save that first one), the defense answered to deflate the opposing fans.

This was a wonderful game, and the crowd was an important compenent of that. Arizona now has a significant home field advantage. When the team keeps the lid shut on the house, the noice reverberates enough to rattle opposing teams. That was nice.

And finally about the rushing. The trash talk from the seat next to me continued laughing at the Cardinals until late in the game pointing out that Edge was not breaking long runs. Hey, buddy, gaining three is six yards better than losing three. On average, the Cardinals gained only 2.6 yards per rushing play. But that's 4.8 yards per carry better than the Lions' average of -2.2.

Warner did not appear to be fantastic on the day, but check that box score at the end of the day: his passer rating was 108.4. Wow!

This is a game to savor. With tonight's matchup, the Cards will either remain a game behind division leading Seattle and be more separated from 3rd place San Francisco, or they'll be tied for the division lead in a bunched up battle. I like the outcome no matter what.

Nice playing guys. I'll be living on this for several days.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Finally Coming Home

The Arizona Cardinals have won two of three at home, and the one they lost can largely be keyed to the need to use a quarterback who had been on the roster less than a week and had not been expected to play at all. This team is ready.

So in come the newly confident 6-2 Detroit Lions. They have enjoyed victories over Oakland, Minnesota, Chicago (twice), Tampa Bay and Denver while losing to Philadelphia and Washington. I'm happy for them, and I know that all NFL competition is good. But the teams they have beaten have 19 combined wins, barely more than three a piece.

I'm not saying the Cardinals are any better. Their three victories came over teams that have 10 combined wins (though I would say that Pittsburgh is tougher competition than Detroit has faced this season).

Both of these teams are blessed with relatively light schedules. Hey, that's what the system is supposed to do. The thing is, Detroit has the advantage of having the easier part of their schedule behind them while the Cardinals have the easy portion ahead. For the rest of the season, Detroits eight opponents average better than five wins each. Arizona's opponents average just over three wins each (Detroit has 6, Cleveland has 5 and no one else has a winning record).

This really has little to do with Sunday's game, but people are always looking at trends. This will be a matchup between two teams with very different trends ahead of them. I'm just glad the game is in Arizona where my Cardinals have been very formidable.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bandwagon In Repair Shop

PHOENIX, AZ -- The Arizona Cardinals have suffered a breakdown of sorts. Their bandwagon has been damaged and is in for repairs.

Said a source within the organization, "This thing has really taken a beating over the years, what with all the jump-ons in '98 simultaneously jumping off in '99, but this year has been unbelievably brutal." The source asked that he remain anonymous unless the team starts winning more.

This has been a remarkable season so far for locals who lack other means of transportation. The source continued, "For most years, when the local bandwagon gets deserted, the fans run to the Chicago, Denver or San Francisco rides, but they've been stalled for most of the season." Currently, the favorites among bandwagon riders appear to be the Packers and Cowboys.

Arizona's problem this year has been an unending series of starts and stops. With a new coaching staff, many had joined the bandwagon before the season started, but an opening night loss in San Francisco emptied the vehicle rapidly. When the team returned home and beat division rival Seattle the vehicle regained some of its original load.

The week three loss in Baltimore did not seriously impact the team since hope in the form of Kurt Warner in the hurry up offense seemed to make fans uncertain of the future, but a week 4 win at home over Pittsburgh brought fans on board in droves.

"I knew the bandwagon was having suspension problems, and I thought that Steelers game was going to be the straw that broke the camel's back, but she surprised me and kept tugging along."

Survival was sweet if short lived. Midway through the first quarter of the week 6 meeting against Carolina saw Warner go down to injury to join starter Matt Leinart on the bench while watching five day member of the team, Tim Rattay valiently attempt to command an offense he had just begun to study.

"It's the first time I know of where so many people jumped off all at once, and in the middle of a game at that!" With the vehicle moving at the time of the mass departure, the bandwagon spun out of control hitting a tree.

The team source indicates that a return to duty could happen as soon as this weekend but cautions that the normally calm streets of Detroit could be more treacherous than in previous years. The team is cautioning fans who wish to return to the bandwagon this week that they should wear seat belts at all times.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's Just One Game

Yes, that's what I'll tell myself...yet's just one more game.

And fortunately for me, the team looked bad while losing. The defense gave up entirely too many yards, the offensive line couldn't open holes for anyone, Fitz inexplicably stepped out of bounds without being touched, and turnovers happened left and right.

Nevermind the blown call by the official who ruled that late pass an interception: 1) he was wrong but just should have been intercepted and 2) the Bucs were not playing well enough to require the Cards the display late heroics in order to win. This game was just plain ugly.

I am a complete supporter of Kurt Warner. Still, I found myself wondering if perhaps Rattay should be managing the game while Warner's arm heals. No matter. Sunday will change things. Yes, that's the ticket. Detroit is always a pushover. What's that? They're 6-2? Boy, I feel like Sideshow Bob after stepping on a rake.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Going Down the Back Stretch!

I like how the second half of the season looks. Yes, I know, there is still one game left before the second half officially begins, but I choose to use the bye week as the divider.

I'm sure anyone who reads this knows that I'm as devoted a fan as there can be to this team. Heck, as I write this, I'm wearing an Anquan Boldin jersey (Emmitt Smith is in the wash, Leinart and my other other Boldin jersey go into the next load).

That said, I firmly believe that the Cardinals will win at least eight of their next nine games.

Okay, okay, when you've picked yourself off the ground, I'll continue.

It all starts this week with one of three remaining games against stiff opposition. Tampa Bay (and a road game at that) is not a pushover. That said, they just lost to a Jacksonville team that was minus all of their decent quarterbacks, either through cuts or injuries. The Bucs are without their best rushers, and while they have an outstanding quarterback, last week he revealed his humanity by being picked off for the first and second times this season. I see victory in the cards (pun entirely intentional...and now you can stop groaning).

Bump up that record to 4-4, and the remaining eight are: vs Detroit, at Cincinnati, vs San Francisco, vs Cleveland, at Seattle (the likely loss), at New Orleans, vs Atlanta and vs St Louis.

I'm counting 11 chickens in those eggs that I know will hatch.