Arizona Cardinals 2010-2011 Season Preview

A Look Back – The Arizona Cardinals proved that their unlikely run to the Super Bowl two years ago wasn’t a fluke. Last year, they finished with a 10-6 record and once again won the NFC West. Though they couldn’t go on the road and win a playoff game again, no one is upset with a first round victory over the Green Bay Packers. The offseason was a tumultuous one though, as the team made a number of moves and gutted the team.

Key Loss – SS Antrel Rolle – Yes, losing QB Kurt Warner hurts, and yes, losing WR Anquan Boldin stings a bit as well, but at least we know that Matt Leinart and Steve Breaston are stepping into those roles respectively. Is there a replacement out there for Rolle? Half of Arizona’s starting secondary from last year was traded at some point during the offseason, which is horrifying news for a team that ranked 20th in the NFL in total defense and 23rd in pass defense.

Arizona Cardinals NFL Cheerleader

Key Addition – LB Joey Porter – HC Ken Whisenhunt renews his ties with an old friend from the Pittsburgh Steelers days by bringing Porter in via free agency. There’s still clearly something left in the tank for the 33 year old, as he racked up 32 sacks in three seasons playing for Miami. There has definitely been some decline, but the prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker will look great in Arizona red. Perhaps his pressure off the end can help mask some of the pains that the secondary will inevitably endure again this year.

2010 Will Be a Success if… – Someone can replace Warner effectively. Notice we said “someone” and not “Leinart.” Backup QB Derek Anderson was brought in from Cleveland to be a security blanket in case something happens to Leinart or he proves to be ineffective. Expect fifth round draft choice John Skelton to have his chances, particularly in the preseason as well. Leinart is too old now to be called a franchise quarterback, and he will have a short leash this year from Whisenhunt, who would probably rather have a different signal caller.

The Crucial Game – The only hope that the Cards will have this year is winning the NFC West yet again, and the only way they do that is by holding serve against the 49ers. The home game on Monday Night Football on November 29th is the most important game of the entire season. There are enough winnable games on the slate at the outset of the season to make this one count for keeps. However, if the two teams are on level terms going into January 2nd’s duel in San Fran, that game will clearly take the cake.

Predictions - Though we don’t think much of this team, we know that seven games combined against the Rams, Seahawks, Bucs, Raiders, Chiefs, and Panthers should yield at least six wins or so. Are there any more than that on the slate, though? We tend to think that .500 is a possibility, but it’s hard to put Arizona in the playoffs playing a first place schedule in comparison to San Fran playing a second place one. That’s reflected in their Super Bowl futures which list the Cardinals at +6000.

2010 Arizona Cardinals Regular Season Schedule

9/12 @ STL
9/19 @ ATL
9/26 vs. OAK
10/3 @ SD
10/10 vs. NO
Bye
10/24 @ SEA
10/31 vs. TB
11/7 @ MIN
11/14 vs. SEA
11/21 @ KC
11/29 vs. SF
12/5 vs. STL
12/12 vs. DEN
12/19 @ CAR
12/25 vs. DAL
1/2 @ SF

 

Today’s denial by St Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo that they are pursuing Donovan McNabb shouldn’t do a thing to stop speculation that he’s leaving. After all, until he actually gets McNabb, the only smart thing to do is deny any rumors.

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If he gets McNabb, then great. But if he fails, then he’s just destroyed his relationship with his current QBs while getting nothing back.

McNabb’s been rumored to be heading to St Louis, Minnesota, Arizona, San Francisco, Buffalo, Washington and probably everywhere else but I can’t be bothered to keep researching.

St Louis seems to be the front-runner based on how often their name is mentioned in relation to McNabb, but I can’t see McNabb signing an extension there.

I think Minnesota is probably the best fit for both player and team although if Arizona can replace Boldin and Urban they’d also be a good fit.

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Kurt Warner with his wife

Kurt Warner with his wife

Kurt Warner has not officially retired yet, but when you hear what he’s saying, you know his time is up.

“It’s the whole week,” said Warner. “The whole commitment, the ability to sustain it to your fullest, day in and day out.”

That doesn’t sound like someone who plans on working out all summer to get ready for another season.

Warner’s career, toiling from obscurity, has been an inspiration to many and I think his struggles are what make him so down-to-earth and likable.

It’s not like his career ended on entirely a sour note. His victory over the Green Bay Packers went in to the record books as the highest scoring game in NFL playoff history while that crushing hit he absorbed in the loss to New Orleans will quickly be forgotten.

Kurt Warner, good luck in whatever you choose to do next.

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NFL Divisional Playoffs Wrap Up

New Orleans Saints Fan
That was a good weekend of football. We saw some really good, close games and some thoroughly dominating offensive and defensive performances leaving us with one Cinderella team, the Jets, one Cinderella story, Favre and the Vikings, and two teams that delivered after promising regular seasons.

NFC Divisional Games

The Saints made the Cardinals look bad. I felt this game had blow-out potential, I just wasn’t sure which way it would go and the Saints poor play down the stretch had me leaning away from the Saints.

Way to prove me wrong.

I loved how the Vikings completely dismantled a hot Cowboys team. The combination of good preparation, the right game plan and a veteran quarterback like Favre who can bring it all together makes Minnesota a threat to any team.

As good as their respective offenses played, much of the credit has to go to the defenses who were in lock-down mode. It will be interesting to see whether it’s the veteran savvy of Favre or the overwhelming force of Drew Brees and the other Saints stars that gets the upper hand on the defenses.

Early NFL conference final odds have the Saints favored by four points. I don’t want to under-estimate the Saints after underestimating them last week, but I’m going to have a long hard think before betting against the Vikings.

AFC Divisional Games

The Chargers-Jets game played out almost exactly as I expected, although I didn’t account for the Jets ability to wear down opposing defenses and thought they’d be up early. The Jets aren’t going to play any pretty games, or at least they aren’t going to win them, but it’s nice seeing a team buck the trend to pass-heavy offenses and succeed.

Too many coaches are like sheep always building teams that emulate the most recent Super Bowl winners when there’s more than one way to win.

I also got the Ravens-Colts game right except that the Ravens surprised me with how much they passed. When the Ravens got the early field goal, it felt like Manning just decided that there was no way the Ravens were going to outplay the Colts and immediately quelled any doubt.

The AFC Final odds favor the Colts by 7.5. It’s a lot to cover and you know the Jets will play them tough, but the Colts are better equipped to deal with the Jets than the Chargers who really didn’t match up well.

New Orleans Saints Cheerleaders
The rested, but possibly rusty, New Orleans Saints host an Arizona Cardinals team that is coming off the highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history on Saturday January 16th at the Superdome in New Orleans.

The New Orleans Saints (-305) are 7-point NFL odds favorites over the Arizona Cardinals (+245) and the over/under is 57.

Going in to this game the big question on every sports bettors mind is “can the Saints play up to the form that they demonstrated for most of the season?”

New Orleans had a bye last week, rested many of their starters the week before, and didn’t play very well in the week before that. So it’s been a month since New Orleans has played with the proper intensity and execution. Maybe even longer for that execution part.

The Arizona offense picked up 531 yards against Green Bay and all everyone is talking about is their passing attack, but Arizona found time to pull off some big running plays too.

Running back Beanie Wells led the way with 91 yards, including a big run for 42, as the Cardinals managed 156 yards rushing.

It’s not going to be easy for the Saints to stop this offense.

The Arizona defense gave up a lot of big plays last week. Somewhere Drew Brees is looking at game tape and wondering if someone switched the pre-season tapes as a joke.

But they also made some big plays including the forced fumble that got returned for the game-winning touchdown.

The Saints will come out ready to play, but their execution isn’t going to be top-level. They will miss a couple of chances for big plays early giving the Cardinals’ defense a free pass on some early break-downs.

But the Cardinals defense is going to be a lot more focused after being embarrassed in the win last week. They’re not going to make as many tackling errors as they did last week.

The Cardinals should jump out to an early lead before New Orleans starts to charge back. By the second half, New Orleans will have their execution back and the advantage of all of the rest that they’ve had will also start to show.

Arizona will be hard-pressed to defend the lead, but at +7 I fully expect them to at least cover.

 

 

 
 
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