Week 15 – Arizona Cardinals @ St Louis Rams: Look Out Below

Although the Cardinals enter this game 10-3 and the Rams 7-6, it’s St Louis coming in with the hot hand. The Rams are playing with an esprit du corp that belies their record. Where we can find the Washington Redskins practice deteriorate into a fist fight, Head Coach Jeff Fisher has his team improving as the season has worn on. Along with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, it could be argued this is the hottest team in football.

Robert Quinn and Chris Long are leading the pass rush as they had last season.

Robert Quinn and Chris Long are leading the pass rush as they had last season.

You laugh until you notice the Rams have won 3 of their last 4 while holding those teams to 7 points or fewer. By the way one of those teams was the AFC West leading Denver Broncos. They also have a pelt on their post from having also vanquished the Seattle Seahawks at home where they are 4-2 on the year.

Now in comes the offensively challenged Arizona Cardinals. A team that has averaged 13 points in their last 4 games and they have to face a Rams defensive unit coming off back to back shut outs. The Cardinals were a 4th quarter touchdown away from coming in on a 3 game losing streak. Once RB Andre Ellington was put on season ending Injury Reserve, they’re down to 2nd string RB Stepfan Taylor to go along with QB Drew Stanton. The Cardinals had been able to get by with timely defense and finding a way to win it in the end.

Stanton's play of late has not been up to the "Super Bowl declarations" of Head Coach Bruce Arians.

Stanton’s play of late has not been up to the “Super Bowl declarations” of Head Coach Bruce Arians.

Once Carson Palmer went down, this already challenged offense has bogged down mainly behind Stanton flaming out. Sure Head Coach Bruce Arians keeps telling the media he’s able to lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, but he must be talking about a rigged game of Madden on Playstation 4. In the last 3 games he has thrown 1TD to 5 interceptions. Now he has to go out and face a Rams defense that has 18 sacks and 12 turnovers in their last 4 games??

Now lets take a look at the Thursday Night series this year… you do realize the home team has won 8 of these games so far. By the time we add the momentum the Rams are coming in with… The Chancellor of Football sees a 31-7 triumph tonight.

Why was this titled “Look Out Below?” The Arizona Cardinals are coming dangerously close to becoming this century’s version of the 1986 New York Jets. That team exploded out of the blocks and had a league best 10-1 record until injuries brought on a late season slump. The Jets became the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a 5 game losing streak. They made the playoffs and this Cardinals team may also. Yet understand they are staggering and hoping to make it to the finish like a struggling boxer. However hope doesn’t win football games and they could be in for a thunderous loss tonight.

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Thanksgiving Day: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

The NFL finally did something great with making all these divisional match-ups make up the bulk of the final slate of games. All season long we’ve looked at the impending battle lines that make up today’s Eagles vs Cowboys tilt in Jerry World. A pair of 8-3 combatants fighting for NFC East supremacy. What could be better??

DeMarco-Murray-hd-imagesThis is a game that will challenge Head Coach Jason Garrett and QB Tony Romo. One of the penchants they have to fight is trying to fool opponents when they play high profile games like this. It almost came back to bite them in the game against the New York Giants. They get away from controlling the clock and running DeMarco Murray right at opponents wanting to show Tony Romo is healthy or the defacto leader of the football team.

They come out and do this as they did against New York or Washington and they will lose.

Mark Sanchez could be the Eagles key to victory.

Mark Sanchez could be the Eagles key to victory.

An interesting note, the Philadelphia Eagles are not only 2-1 under Mark Sanchez, his stats for 2014 are better than the man he replaced in Nick Foles. For the season Sanchez has completed 62.3% vs 59.8% for the man he replaced however his interceptions have been up in recent weeks. If the Eagles can get Sanchez passing the football early and force Dallas to feel pressure to score with them…the Eagles will win.

What Dallas needs to do is slow this game down and run Murray downhill at them. The Eagles can’t stand up to The Great Wall 2 for 40-45 rushes. They are ranked 16th against the run but that is due to playing against teams trying to pass to keep pace with their offense. We saw how poorly this defense tackles when they lost to the Packers a few weeks back. They also wilted in the second half in a 26-21 defeat in San Francisco earlier in the season.

The Eagles have feasted on patsies and lost their 3 games to playoff caliber talent in San Fran, Arizona, and Green Bay. Well…make it a 4th in what should happen today. The Cowboys should win 34-27.

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Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals

Make no mistake about it this is a big game. It’s a proving ground where the winner will make themselves out to be an NFC heavyweight. The winner of this game will make it as far as the divisional round of the playoffs. The team that falls today will make the playoffs but will fall in the wildcard game.

NFL: SEP 13 Lions at SaintsWhile it’s endearing to think the roll of the Cardinals will continue, but without Carson Palmer this team can’t make it to the Super Bowl. Truth is Drew Stanton is a very capable backup who is 3-0 this year and was 2-1 for the Lions in 2010 in the same capacity. However right now he’s completing just 49.5% of his passes. He hasn’t thrown an interception yet but he is going to go against the #1 defense in the Lions.

This is the game Matthew Stafford and the Lions will prove their mettle with a tight win. Calvin “Megatron” Johnson has beat Patrick Peterson like a drum since they have played in the NFL. The Cardinals may try Antonio Cromartie on him some today. Detroit hasn’t been stellar on offense this year but if they didn’t have kicking woes, they would be the 8-1 team and not the Cardinals. Although 7-2 isn’t bad.

They will win today 23-14 and cement their legitimacy as an NFC favorite heading into the 2014 playoffs.

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Midterm Review Seattle Seahawks: Quiet Storm Brewing

A consensus started to take shape when the Dallas Cowboys won in Seattle 5 weeks ago. Folks started to bury the defending Super Bowl champions. Further fuel was dumped on the fire with a loss to the Rams the following week. Then they endured the Percy Harvin trade after that. Yet this team bounced back with 3 consecutive wins and will face the meat of their season with 5 divisional games in their last 7.

Marshawn Lynch's 4 touchdown performance last week propelled a 38-17 drubbing of the Giants last week.

Marshawn Lynch’s 4 touchdown performance last week propelled a 38-17 drubbing of the Giants last week.

Every NFL season takes its own shape and the 2014 Seahawks aren’t the 2013 Seahawks. They have had to learn what it means to be the hunted as they have been hit with everyone’s best shot. Still they’re 6-3 and field the 3rd best defense in the NFL. Many pundits were writing their epitaph as though their season was over. One friend to Taylor Blitz Times suggested they may not make the playoffs. No chance of that… Did you know over the next 7 weeks Seattle will face the 22nd, 24th, 17th, 17th, 24th, and 30th ranked offenses in 6 of those games?? Two will be against Arizona now without QB Carson Palmer.

Truth be told the Seahawks got away from who they were trying to implement Percy Harvin in their offense. He is a tweener that isn’t a polished receiver and too small to play running back. From the Super Bowl until he was traded, his touches took away from Marshawn Lynch who establishes the attitude and tone for the team. Bubble screens and Jet sweeps were featured as the offense got away from power and became a finesse offense. Not one time with Harvin in the lineup did the Seahawks have any offensive continuity.

Last week the Seahawks rediscovered who they were with a 350 yard rushing performance buoyed by Lynch’s 21 car. 140 yards and 4 touchdowns. His physical runs wear down the opponent while galvanizing Seattle. Everyone feeds off the toughness he exhibits. This comes just in time for the stretch run to the playoffs. The new media darling is the Arizona Cardinals who have earned that distinction with an 8-1 record. Keep in mind the Seahawks have two cracks at them along with two more with the 49ers. By the way, Patrick Willis was just put on IR for San Francisco today.

Keep in mind last year the Cardinals won in Seattle in week 16 although the Seahawks had already earned home field advantage. Most pundits won’t tell you that. What they also failed to mention was where the Cardinals gained their motivation for that game. Well in the 2012 season as the Seahawks were establishing themselves as an NFC heavyweight, they crushed Arizona 58-0 in the worse NFL shutout loss of the century. It was an ass whooping of epic proportions, one the Cardinals didn’t forget. The Seahawks will remember last year’s 17-10 loss as well.

Now that the games are big for everyone, Seattle can apply pressure to opponents.

Now that the games are big for everyone, Seattle can apply pressure to opponents.

A closer look will tell you no one is going to sneak up on anyone as the playoffs beckon. The Seahawks will now have opponents feel the pressure of making it to the postseason instead of feeling all the anxiety themselves. Now the games get bigger and more important. Just in time for a LB Malcolm Smith to return to the lineup. Just in time as big hitting SS Kam Chancellor works his way back into game shape having missed two games.

This team is poised to make a Super Bowl run and now they have gone back to the formula that won the hardware last season. Does anyone believe Dallas will go up there and run like that in the playoffs if they faced one another?? Who really thinks the Cardinals will sustain their 2 game lead over Seattle?? What about all of ESPN’s reports the team is going to do away with Marshawn Lynch once the season is over?? The Chancellor doesn’t think so but we do know the Seahawks will ride Lynch all the way to Glendale and Super Bowl XLIX if they can. If they can do that they can establish the first post Bill Belichick dynasty.

Stay tuned…

 

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Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys: Is Romo In of Out??

The story that is hitting the rumor circuit is Tony Romo will not play in today’s game. This game between the Cardinals and Cowboys is big when it comes to tie breaker advantages for the end of the season. If the Cowboys thought it was important to put him in for those final 5 minutes last week, The Chancellor believes he will play when you look at the big picture.

Romo will be a game time decision. We think he will play.

Romo will be a game time decision. We think he will play.

With a win today, the Cowboys move to 7-2 on the season. However more important is they would have divisional and wildcard tiebreakers over both Seattle and Arizona depending on how the NFC West shakes out. They would be 5-2 within the NFC and believe it or not, the Cowboys will pull for Seattle and Arizona to finish ahead of the 49ers. San Francisco beat Dallas head to head and is 3-2 in the conference before today’s game against the Rams.

With that important a backdrop, Tony Romo will be “asked” to play.

Larry Foote and the defense has been clutch all year.

Larry Foote and the defense has been clutch all year.

This could play right into the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, whose defensive game plans and blitz packages mimic those the Cowboys struggled to block on Monday Night. As we alluded to in our Cardinals article last week, they thrive on situational football. Each week Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles comes up with a variety of blitzes for their opponents.

This fact has to be brought up in case Tony Romo plays. Before last week, the Cowboys stuck to the gameplan of rushing DeMarco Murray (1,054 yds) straight ahead. However the penchant to audible out of running plays finally came back to bite the Cowboys in their overtime loss to Washington. If Weeden plays will he have the latitude to call those audibles or will Jason Garrett mandate he stay with the play??

This could cause a problem because the Cardinals are #1 in the NFC against the run and #2 overall. This is a battle hardened group used to facing Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore within their division. So they will put pressure back on the quarterback as they have all year. With the Cardinal offense on pace to set an NFL record for fewest turnovers, someone for Dallas needs to make a few plays.

The Cardinals are on course for homefield advantage and could possibly play a first ever Super Bowl in their own home stadium. Dreams are starting to materialize. With a win today, they’ll be 5-0 against the NFC with tie break advantages against San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Dallas. Sure they have two huge games against Seattle coming up but they are building a hell of a cushion.

This will be a slugfest and The Chancellor of Football sees Arizona winning this game 22-17.

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Arizona Cardinals – Ode To Professionalism

Over the last several weeks a lot of attention has been heaped on the Dallas Cowboys. Whether the conversation covered power rankings or flat X’s and O’s, they deserved all they received. However a closer look and the team that has more quality wins is the Arizona Cardinals.

Bruce Arians has to be NFL Coach of the Year for his team's performance.

Bruce Arians has to be NFL Coach of the Year for his team’s performance.

In their 6-1 start, they edged the 5-3 Chargers 18-17, pounded out a 23-14 win over the 4-3 49ers, and now a 24-20 victory over the 5-2 Philadelphia Eagles. The only blemish on their schedule was a 41-20 loss to the 6-1 Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning vs. Drew Stanton?? Those were the quarterbacks on the marquee in that defeat in Invesco Field with Carson Palmer nursing an injury.

How are the Cardinals doing this and more importantly can they sustain it? Did you know the Cardinals are ranked 24th in defense, 25th in total offense while being 22nd in gaining first downs?? They don’t have a top ten rusher, receiver, and Bruce Arians has used 3 different starting QBs thanks to injuries.

A closer look reveals Andre Ellington is 11th in rushing with 464 yards and 2 TDs. Yet that doesn’t explain anything. DeMarco Murray has that in his last 3 games alone.

Three keys to this team’s success are:

1. Their esprit de corps in executing Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles’ game plans.

2. Arizona is 2nd in the NFL with a +9 turnover ratio while keeping 6 opponents to 20 points or less.

3. Winning situational football week in and week out which can only be attributed to coaching.

“Situational football” is a phrase used by Bill Belichick in practicing specific moments that can arise in a game. What situation?? Take game 1 against the Chargers when they had a tentative lead with just a minute to go. Instead of lining up in a passive prevent zone and allowing Rivers to calmly lead his team in field goal range. They came after him on 3 successive plays with 0 coverage blitzes. Three incompletions and the Cardinals win.

John Brown is the Cardinal's version of the Steelers Antonio Brown. Diminutive and can flat out fly.

John Brown is the Cardinal’s version of the Steelers Antonio Brown. Diminutive and can flat out fly.

Another situation was this past Sunday with 1:39 to go in the game facing 3rd and 5. Rookie wideout John Brown sticks his foot in the ground 15 yards downfield then bursts pass S Nate Allen for the game winning 75 yard touchdown.

That is just it. The situation where all these cookie cutter coordinators are totally coaching their players what to expect, the Cardinals are going for broke. Carson Palmer pulled the trigger and led Brown perfectly on the game winning touchdown.

Arizona is keeping everyone close with this approach and finding ways to win it in the end.

Can they sustain the rate of committing just 5 turnovers in 7 games?? If they can they’d break the record of the 1990 New York Giants with fewest (13) in a season. Doubtful they can sustain it. Yet they have NFC tie breakers over San Francisco and Philadelphia. With a win this Sunday against Dallas, they will add another tie-breaker. Dallas better not overcoach this week.

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