All In The Cards: Is It Safe To Jump On The Cardinals Bandwagon? (Week 3 Recap)

Welcome to another abridged edition of All In The Cards! We’ll get back to my regular analysis this Friday but for now let’s see how my predictions faired and whether or not it is safe for people to jump on the Cardinals bandwagon. Hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on twitter @QTipsforsports or find my in-game thoughts with the hashtag #Allinthecards. Without further ado, let’s recap my week three predictions:

How I Did With My Week 3 Predictions:

  • Arizona 47, San Francisco 7: If you want to jump on the Cardinals bandwagon I won’t stop you (we always happily accept new members!) but for those who are on the fence I would say wait one more week. If the Cards can get through the Rams unscathed (whether intentional or not, a lot of quarterbacks get injured facing the Rams) then I would say you are free to jump on without regret. As for the 49ers, abandon all hope as what I saw Sunday was the worst 49ers team I have seen in my 12 years as a Cardinals fan and there have been some bad 49ers teams. (17-16)
  • New York Giants 32, Washington 21: Figured that the Giants would turn it around as you have to be good enough to have a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter to be able to lose it. We’ll see if this is the kind of win that propels their season forward. (18-16)
  • Atlanta 39, Dallas 28: All I can say is that you can’t pin this one on the Cowboys offense. I’m pretty sure that if you told anyone that this Cowboys offense would put up 28 points that they would say that Dallas would win. There just seems to be a new hope in Atlanta, as Dan Quinn and his staff have rejuvenated both the offense and the defense. (19-16)
  • Cincinnati 28, Baltimore 24: I knew I was going to be incorrect about a few 0-2 teams but honestly this game was so good I don’t care that I got it wrong. The Ravens luckily have one last shot to turn things around as they face a Roethlisberger-less Steelers on Thursday but if they lose that one you can stick a fork in them. As for the Bengals, they look like the favorites to take the AFC North crown yet again. (19-17)
  • Oakland 27, Cleveland 20: I wrote last week that I needed to see consistency from the Raiders offense before I picked them again and I saw just that against the Browns. It seems that the best-case scenario for Derek Carr is happening and you can’t help but feel a little happy for a Raiders fan base that has been in a deep depression the past decade. As for the Browns, while not entirely Josh McCown’s fault, it’s a bad sign that both losses have come with him as the starter. (19-18)
  • Indianapolis 35, Tennessee 33: I know the Colts won the game. I know that it was a divisional game on the road against a feisty Titans team. I know that the Colts finally found some kind of running game. I know that the Colts had a ton of pressure on them after the 0-2 start. It’s just that I walk away from this game not that impressed with the Colts. Show me a win where they take control of a game and I’ll feel a lot better. (20-18)
  • Pittsburgh 12, St. Louis 6: It’s almost as if every quarterback-dependant team is getting a taste of what the Cardinals had to go through last season. I feel especially bad for the Steelers as Roethlisberger was playing at an MVP-level. Luckily they will get him back relatively soon. The Rams need to beat the Cardinals or come close to beating them as that opening week win is starting to fade fast and in its place is frustration and a possible call for change.(21-18)
  • Minnesota 31, San Diego 14: Can we just take a moment to appreciate that we have Adrian Peterson back to being himself again? The Vikings are starting to look like the sleeper team I and many other people saw before the season and the Chargers are starting to come back to reality as well. (22-18)
  • New England 51, Jacksonville 17: I apologize to Jaguars fans but I saw this one coming. While last week’s win against the Dolphins was a step in the right direction, there is still a ways to go and the Patriots proved that this week. Did you know this Patriots offense has outscored the famous 2007 offense to this point in the season? That blows my mind. (23-18)
  • Carolina 27, New Orleans 22: Props to Luke McCown and the rest of the Saints for making the game as close as it was on Sunday. Maybe it’s just the competition they have faced up to this point, but I’m not nearly as impressed with the Panthers 3-0 start as I am with the Falcons 3-0 start. If they can put the Bucs away quickly next week that could change my mind. (24-18)
  • Philadelphia 24, New York Jets 17: Speaking about not being impressed, the Eagles were so lucky that the Jets were set on losing that game. In all seriousness, I came away from that game feeling that the Jets were the superior team and that the Eagles are on track for a 5-11 season. (25-18)
  • Houston 19, Tampa Bay 9: I think the decision to drop Andre Johnson and center the passing game around DeAndre Hopkins is starting to make a lot more sense, especially after their respective performances Sunday (Johnson went without a catch and Hopkins caught eight passes for 101 yards and a score). Jameis Winston continues to be very inaccurate in his losses, hitting under 50% of his passes against the Texans. (26-18)
  • Buffalo 41, Miami 14: I expected the Bills to win this game comfortably but not this comfortably. Tyrod Taylor’s success has become one of the biggest stories early in the season and proves that almost any quarterback can flourish in the right system. Meanwhile the Dolphins are an absolute mess at the moment and I would not be surprised if Joe Philbin is fired in the next couple of weeks if things don’t magically turn around. (27-18)
  • Seattle 26, Chicago 0: A shutout is impressive regardless of the opponent. Making your opponent punt on all ten of its possessions is very impressive. However, that means the Seahawks didn’t create a single turnover against a Jimmy Clausen-led offense. Furthermore, the Seahawks mustered only one touchdown and four field goals against possibly the worst defense in the NFL. I’m not trying to bash the Seahawks (too much), I’m just saying that those who say Seattle is back after this win need to realize they still have a ways to go before they can think about another NFC title. (28-18)
  • Denver 24, Detroit 12: Easily Peyton Manning’s best game this season and possibly in his last eight games overall. When he can play like that and the Broncos defense can shut teams down like they have so far this season, I wouldn’t hand the AFC to the Patriots just yet. The Lions are now 0-3 and face the Seahawks and the Cardinals the next two weeks. Good luck with that. (29-18)
  • Green Bay 38, Kansas City 28: Aaron Rodgers is the reason I, a diehard Arizona Cardinals fan, am not ready to call the Cardinals the early NFC favorite. While I believe Arizona’s defense is much better than Green Bay’s defense, Rodgers is playing at such a high level it might not matter how good a defense is performing. The fact he’s doing this without Jordy Nelson just solidifies Rodgers as the best quarterback in the NFL. (30-18)

 
Week 3 Record: 14-2 (One heck of a bounce back performance)
Season Record: 30-18
Perfect Score Predictions: 1

All In The Cards: Week 3 (Abridged Edition)

Welcome to an abridged edition of All In The Cards! Because I was busy this week and because this is coming out late, this week I won’t have an in-depth analysis of the Arizona Cardinals matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Luckily these two teams will face again later in the season so I’ll still have a chance to go in-depth then. Hope you enjoy and if you do, make sure to follow my in-game tweets with the hashtag #Allinthecards. Without further ado, my week three predictions:

Cardinals Week 3 Predictions

  • Arizona 34, San Francisco 17: I’ve had some time to objectively look at the Cardinals two wins and I realize that neither team was as goo d as I thought they were. That’s especially true of the Saints and Bears defenses. However, worrying about the Cards offense against better defenses is a concern for another week as the Cards face a 49ers defense that just gave up 43 points on the road at Pittsburgh. Add the fact that a couple of key offensive linemen could return for this game and I feel that Arizona will win in a blowout.

Other Week 3 Predictions:

  • New York Giants 26, Washington 23: Figured that the Giants would turn it around as you have to be good enough to have a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter to be able to lose it. We’ll see if this is the kind of win that propels their season forward.
  • Atlanta 23, Dallas 13: It’s not that I entirely don’t trust Brandon Weeden, it’s just that I think the Falcons are going to make enough plays to take advantage of the fact that the Cowboys will be playing without their two most important offensive players. In the long-term I think the Cowboys defense will be able to win some games but this isn’t one of those games.
  • Baltimore 27, Cincinnati 20: This is a must-win game for the Ravens plus it is also at home. I know I’m going to be incorrect a few times this week because I’m unable to admit that some surprise 0-2 teams just aren’t good this year and I feel this could be one of those instances. But my gut tells me they pull this win out against a division rival.
  • Cleveland 20, Oakland 16: This game is a complete toss-up but I think I’ll lean towards the Browns based on their defense and the fact that they are at home. I’d like to see more consistency from the Raiders offense before I decide to pick them again.
  • Indianapolis 31, Tennessee 17: Come on the Colts have to turn it around this week right? The Titans will give them a tough fight but Andrew Luck will show why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. However, if they lose this game I have a bad feeling that this team will implode.
  • Pittsburgh 31, St. Louis 23: The best way to explain the Rams performance last week against Washington is that this team is a lot more comfortable playing at home than on the road. For that reason I think they rebound this week against the Steelers. I don’t think it will be enough for the win but the game will be a lot closer than some might think.
  • Minnesota 24, San Diego 20: I’ve been impressed with how competitive the Chargers have been this season. However, I would say that I was more impressed with how the Vikings bounced back last week after a rough start to the season. That and the fact that the game is in Minnesota is why I’m picking the Vikings.
  • New England 38, Jacksonville 10: Even though the Jaguars are coming off a promising win against the Dolphins, the Patriots are playing on a entirely different level and will want to blow someone out after letting the Bills back into the game last week. I could totally see Tom Brady throw four or five touchdowns in this game.
  • Carolina 19, New Orleans 10: Even if the Saints did have Drew Brees I would still pick the Panthers. Carolina is just a much better team overall and is playing at a high level to start the season. I kept the score close but this is one of those games where if the Panthers score a few times early this could turn into a blowout.
  • Philadelphia 24, New York Jets 23: I have to give a ton of kudos to Todd Bowles on a successful start to his head coaching career. That being said, I don’t think the Jets are going to stay undefeated much longer. Also add the fact that the Eagles are too good to start the season 0-3 and this result makes sense. Then again Bowles had success against the Eagles when he was the Cards defensive coordinator…
  • Houston 19, Tampa Bay 17: Complete toss-up game for me. I think the difference will be J.J. Watt and the Texans defense getting after Jameis Winston and making him uncomfortable all game. Also the fact that DeAndre Hopkins practiced this week after sustaining a concussion is nothing but good news for the Texans.
  • Buffalo 28, Miami 17: There’s a chance that the Dolphins are not as good as people, including me, expected. This will be a key game that could determine if the Dolphins still have a chance to be a legit playoff team. However I feel the Bills will bounce back from their loss to the Patriots and take this game early.
  • Seattle 33, Chicago 13: I saw Jimmy Clausen play last week and the fact that he goes against a Seahawks defense that finally has Kam Chancellor back and is in desperate need of a win, I see nothing but a very long afternoon for the Bears. This also might be the game where the Seahawks offense starts getting back on track.
  • Denver 24, Detroit 16: Even if Peyton Manning is only good but not great, you never bet against him in primetime games. I learned that the hard way last week. As for the Lions they only have themselves to blame if they start the season 0-3.
  • Green Bay 30, Kansas City 17: The only reasoning I really need is that this game is in Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers always play perfectly in Green Bay. The only worry here is if this might be a letdown game for the Packers after they finally defeated the Seahawks but the fact that it’s a Monday night game should keep them focused.

All In The Cards: The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Week 2 Recap)

I sincerely sympathize with Chicago Bears’ fans. As an Arizona Cardinals fan of 11 years I know how Sunday felt. Countless times have the Cardinals been plagued by what has happened to the Bears so far this season:

  • Exceeding expectations at beginning of season to give fans a false sense of optimism (Winning week one and then losing six straight in 2011, Winning first four games in 2012 and then losing nine straight in 2012)
  • Injured quarterbacks (Carson Palmer and to a lesser extent Kevin Kolb and Drew Stanton)
  • Inept backup quarterbacks (Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, Matt Leinart, Ryan Lindley again…)
  • Not capitalizing on turnovers (Lindley throwing that interception vs. the Panthers in the playoffs last year after the Cam Newton fumble)
  • More penalties than one could think was possible (so many to recall, but the worst was a false start in the redzone vs. the Rams which ended the game with a ten-second runoff)
  • Keeping it close in the first half only to be blown away in the second half (just last year the Cards with Drew Stanton at quarterback were only down 21-13 to the Broncos only to lose 41-20)
  • Having the score run-up on you (In the past five years: 41-7 vs. Falcons, 41-10 vs. Chargers, 41-20 vs. Denver, and Seattle did it twice once (58-0) in 2012 and again (35-6) in 2014)

Yes I’ll admit, even though Bruce Arians only knows one speed (GO!) and always has his team on the attack, Larry Fitzgerald’s third touchdown catch was completely unnecessary and just added salt to the wounds.

At the same time you can’t blame the Cardinals too much. Look at what this team has gone through and you would understand why they needed this. This was a message to the rest of the league that the Cards belong with the elite this season. It’s unfortunate that it had to come at a team’s expense, but the Cards needed to show that last season wasn’t a fluke. Every single win last year was by 17 or fewer points so the Cards never dominated another team. They dominated the Bears and while neither the Bears nor the Saints look like they are going to have good seasons, the Cardinals are finally blowing out teams. This week Arizona faces San Francisco and while the 49ers did just get annihilated by the Steelers, the 49ers have a history of playing the Cards tough even when they are having a down season. I feel another blowout would solidify the Cards as a Super Bowl contender this season. I’ve been fooled by good starts before, but in none of those starts did the Cardinals do what they did Sunday.

Some Card Numbers:

  • Larry Fitzgerald accomplished a lot this week. First off he continued his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 165.
  • Fitzgerald scored three touchdowns in a regular season game for the first time of his career. The only other time he had three touchdowns in a game was the 2008 NFC Championship against the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • It was the first time in nine games that Fitzgerald scored a touchdown. It was also the first time in seven games that he amassed over 100 receiving yards.
  • Last Fitzgerald stat: against the Bears he eclipsed 90 regular season touchdowns and 100 career (regular and postseason) touchdowns.
  • Carson Palmer is off to blazing start, as he is tied for first in the NFL with seven passing touchdowns. He’s also ranked third in quarterback rating and sixth in yards per pass attempt.
  • Rookie David Johnson had a historic day, becoming the first Cardinal since 1958 to have a kickoff return and a rushing touchdown in the same game. The kickoff return went 108 yards, which is tied for second longest in NFL history.
  • As a team the Arizona Cardinals are first in the NFL in scoring (39.5), tenth in total offense (363.5), first in converting third downs (52.6%) and tied for sixth in allowing third down conversions (30.0%).
  • The 48 points against the Bears was the most that the Cardinals have scored under Bruce Arians. The previous high was 40 points against the Indianapolis Colts.

How I Did With Week 2 Predictions:

  • Arizona 48, Chicago 23: I predicted a much closer game and I honestly believe that if Jay Cutler didn’t get injured it would have only been a one or two score game. The Cards defense just overwhelmed Jimmy Clausen and took away his confidence early. (10-7)
  • Kansas City 20, Denver 16: Yeah I might of made a mistake betting against Peyton Manning in primetime but in truth this pick was a test to see if Manning was still a good quarterback. What I can conclude is that he’s still good but I don’t know if he’s great anymore. That defense will be carrying the team this season. (10-8)
  • Atlanta 24, New York Giants 20: Either the Falcons are legit or the NFC East is really bad this year. Maybe it’s both but you can’t deny that Matt Ryan is looking like Matty Ice again and that Dan Quinn has really turned that defense around. The Giants have a hole to climb out of but they’ve done it before and luckily no one is running away with their division (10-9)
  • New England 40, Buffalo 32: Even though the Bills made a huge push in the fourth quarter, I think the fact that the Patriots put up 40 points on an excellent Bills defense is evidence enough to say that the defending champs are the favorite yet again this season. Imagine how the Patriots would be doing if they didn’t have Tom Brady back? (11-9)
  • Cincinnati 24, San Diego 19: In what could be a make-or-break season for Andy Dalton he has had a fantastic start to the year. So far he has five touchdowns and no turnovers while completing 68.3% of his passes. As long as he avoids mistakes the Bengals will a contender. Also Philip Rivers remains one of the most under appreciated quarterbacks in the NFL.  (12-9)
  • Cleveland 28, Tennessee 14: I said I wasn’t going to succumb to the Titans hype train but I guess I did in the end. The Browns looked really good but part of me wonders if this offense can contribute on a consistent basis as they seem to really rely on the home run play. Regardless it was a nice win and great start to the new-and-improved Johnny Manziel era.  (12-10)
  • Minnesota 26, Detroit 16: This was the Minnesota team I was expecting to see this season! Regardless of how you feel about Adrian Peterson, as a football fan it feels great to have him back and playing like himself again. The Lions really need to figure out what is making them play so badly in the second half. You can’t have three turnovers in the second half and expect to win. (12-11)
  • Washington 24, St. Louis 10: There are letdown games, and then there’s the Rams performance against the Redskins. I think Washington might be a decent football team (they also played the Dolphins tough) but for a team like the Rams who are trying to show they turned a corner this is a huge step back. Now they have to rebound against Pittsburgh. Things aren’t looking as great anymore in St. Louis. (12-12)
  • Tampa Bay 26, New Orleans 19: Props to the Bucs for rebounding after such a humiliating defeat to the Titans. However this is about the Saints and what may well be the end of the Sean Payton era. If they don’t turn things around soon I could see him getting the pink slip at the end of the season. (12-13)
  • Pittsburgh 43, San Francisco 18: It seems that the 49ers have been introduced to reality. Jokes aside, this was more about Pittsburgh rebounding from last week’s loss against the Patriots and boy did they bounce back. I honestly think Ben Roethlisberger has an outside shot at the MVP this season and a great shot at offensive player of the year. (13-13)
  • Carolina 24, Houston 17: The Panthers offense isn’t pretty (unless we’re talking about Cam Newton’s flip into the endzone, which was gorgeous), but with that defense it’s enough. While not terrible it wasn’t an encouraging start to the Ryan Mallett era. The Texans may end up relying on their defense more than the Panthers this season and that’s saying something. (14-13)
  • Oakland 37, Baltimore 33: How does a defense that doesn’t give up a single touchdown to the Broncos offense give up four touchdowns to the Raiders offense? Sure they lost Terrell Suggs but that defense still has a lot of great players. Regardless of why it happened, the fact is that Derek Carr had a breakout game and is giving Raiders fans something to smile about. (14-14)
  • Jacksonville 23, Miami 20: The theme this week was I let week one influence my picks too much. No place was this more evident than this pick. The Jaguars are improved and they showed that in this game. Meanwhile something doesn’t feel right about the Dolphins. There’s still plenty of time to turn things around but this has not been a great start to the season. (14-15)
  • Dallas 20, Philadelphia 10: Things are not looking good for the Eagles as all of their offseason gambles have come up snake eyes the first two weeks. Meanwhile the Cowboys are having a case of the 2014 Cardinals, winning games but losing key players such as Tony Romo. Luckily they’ll most likely still be in contention for the NFC East crown when Romo comes. (15-15)
  • *Green Bay 27, Seattle 17: My first perfect score prediction! Wasn’t keeping track before because I didn’t think I’d get one this whole season. Aaron Rodgers must get superpowers when he plays at home because that’s the only way to explain his home games without an interception streak. Also that Jimmy Graham for Max Unger is starting to look a little regrettable. Graham will still help the passing game (though he only had one catch for 11 yards this week) but the loss of Unger has made the offensive line so unstable and that has really hurt their running game. (16-15)
  • New York Jets 20, Indianapolis 7: The good news is that the Colts were 0-2 last year and rebounded to make the AFC Championship. The bad news is that this time around there seems to be more pressure and tension. Week three against the Titans is a must-win game. The Jets defense may be one of the five or ten best defenses in the NFL and they’re still learning Todd Bowles schemes. (16-16)

Week 2 Record: 7-9 (I’m NOT an expert)
Season Record: 16-16
*Perfect Score Predictions: 1

All In The Cards Week 2

Welcome back to a new edition of All In the Cards! I want to thank everyone one who read and supported last week’s article as it became a bigger success than I ever would have thought. I hope you continue to enjoy reading them in the weeks to come and that I make better game picks (DISCLAIMER: I’m not an expert). This week the Arizona Cardinals take on the rebuilding Chicago Bears. Let’s see how they match up against each other and what will be the keys to the game:

Arizona Cardinals @ Chicago Bears

Last Meeting: L 28-13 vs. Chicago (12/23/12)

The Bears may be in rebuilding mode, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be an easy opponent. The Green Bay Packers, one of the Super Bowl favorites, found that out last week as they were barely able to get by with the win. While most of the attention was placed on Jay Cutler’s fourth quarter interception, the reason the Bears lost was that they couldn’t stop Aaron Rodgers. The reigning MVP completed 18 of his 23 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, Rodgers didn’t throw an interception and was never sacked.

Obviously Carson Palmer is nowhere near as good of a quarterback as Rodgers but you can’t help but look at the numbers. Against the New Orleans Saints, Palmer completed 19 of his 32 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns. He also neither threw an interception nor was sacked. Besides Rodgers being a little more accurate and Palmer throwing for more yards, those stat lines are practically identical.

So what does that mean? It means Palmer has a chance at a repeat performance. Granted that looking at stats to indicate how a team will perform is risky this early in the season as we only have a one-game sample, but this is a problem the Bears have had for a while. Since the start of the 2014 season, the Bears defense has given up 37 passing touchdowns. That’s just passing touchdowns! With Andre Ellington most likely out for this week, I expect the Cardinals to throw often in the red zone, especially with Larry Fitzgerald seeming to have regained form. Also watch out for tight end Darren Fells, the 6’7” 281 pound monster that had a coming-out party against the Saints (4 catches for 82 yards and a TD). In fact, I expect Palmer to throw between 35-40 passes so as not to put too much of a load on Chris and David Johnson.

However, if you think the Cardinals are simply going to blow out the Bears you are sadly mistaken. This Bears offense has what it takes to make up for its lackluster defense. Unlike last week, the Bears have a tight end in Martellus Bennett (5 catches for 55 yards and a TD vs. Green Bay) who demands attention from the safeties. That means that the Bears receivers, especially Alshon Jeffery, will face less resistance from the Cardinals secondary and could create a bigger problem. Lastly, let’s not forget that Matt Forte, one of the best receiving backs in the NFL, will be facing a defense that allowed a combined 13 catches for 149 yards to Saints running backs Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. If Cutler is allowed to dump it off to Forte all day, that greatly decreases the likelihood of Cutler losing the game for the Bears.

Overall this game will come down to which defense can make more stops and while the Bears have some favorable matchups against the Cardinals defense, I trust the Cards defense much more than I do the Bears defense. One last fun fact is that new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has experience going against this Cardinals offense as he was the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers the previous two years. That also means that the Cards are familiar with Fangio’s defensive sets so it will be interesting to see if Fangio can come up with something Bruce Arians and co won’t expect. I think the Bears will take an early lead only to see the Cardinals come back and snatch the win in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Arizona 23, Chicago 16

Fantasy Advice:

With Chris Johnson still learning the offense, the Cardinals will most likely be relying on their passing game against the Bears. That means Carson Palmer is a must start again this week and considering how he performed last week there should be less hesitation this time around. For the Bears, Matt Forte is a must start. You can take into consideration that the Cards probably spent all week covering screen passes but Forte is a much better receiver than Mark Ingram so even an improvement won’t mean they’ll be able to contain him.

Week 2 Predictions:

  • Kansas City 20, Denver 16: Yeah I might of made a mistake betting against Peyton Manning in primetime but in truth this pick was a test to see if Manning was still a good quarterback. What I can conclude is that he’s still good but I don’t know if he’s great anymore. That defense will be carrying the team this season.
  • New York Giants 27, Atlanta 23: I think the Falcons have a real shot to win this one, but I think the Giants secondary, which did a good job containing Dez Bryant (five catches, 48 yards), will do a similar job on Julio Jones. If Matt Ryan can find his other targets then the Falcons have a chance but they’re still learning Kyle Shanahan’s offense and will be on the road so I’ll go with New York to rebound from a tough opening week loss.
  • New England 23, Buffalo 13: After the way they handled Indianapolis, I really want to pick the Bills to upset again but I think the Patriots offense will be little harder to contain. Also I don’t think there is anyone in the league that can shutdown Rob Gronkowski.
  • Cincinnati 31, San Diego 20: After Cincinnati steamrolled the Raiders last week, this could be a letdown game with a match against Baltimore looming next week. I think the Bengals are a contender this year so I think they avoid the trap game, but at the same time I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost as well.
  • Tennessee 27, Cleveland 13: I don’t want to buy into the Tennessee hype too quickly, but this is a very favorable matchup for them. I expect the Titans defense to wreak havoc on the Browns offense and maybe score a touchdown or two. Marcus Mariota will come back to earth but the Titans won’t need him to play like he did last week to get the win.
  • Detroit 24, Minnesota 22: Both teams need this win but I feel it goes to the Lions. I just wasn’t that impressed with the Vikings and I expect the Lions to want to get the bad taste of their second half collapse out of their mouth as soon as possible. I expect a big fantasy day from Ameer Abdullah.
  • St. Louis 26, Washington 13: You almost worry about a letdown performance after the emotional win over Seattle, but the Rams are fortunate enough to have an experienced coach in Jeff Fisher who has been there before and should be able to get his young team to stay focused and not take the Redskins lightly. I expect the Rams to take control right from the beginning.
  • New Orleans 34, Tampa Bay 17: While I think the Bucs are much better than what they showed against the Titans, I can’t pick them knowing the game will be in the Superdome with Drew Brees and company also trying to avoid a 0-2 start. If anything this will be a great chance for Jameis Winston to silence some of his doubters against a soft secondary.
  • Pittsburgh 24, San Francisco 13: For as impressive as the 49ers’ win was last week, they just have too tough of a matchup against the Steelers this week. However, if San Francisco is able to pull off the win we may have to reconsider our preconceptions about the 49ers being irrelevant this season.
  • Carolina 23, Houston 10: This is a makeup pick for doubting the Panthers last week against the Jaguars. As long as the Panthers defense is able to shut down opposing offenses, their own offense can score just enough to pick up wins. I’ll be interested in seeing how Ryan Mallett does as the new starting quarterback and whether or not he can get the Texans offense moving.
  • Baltimore 27, Oakland 7: After being bottled up against the Broncos, I expect the Ravens offense to run wild this week against a Raiders defense that gave up 33 points in three quarters to the Cincinnati Bengals. I expect a big fantasy day from Joe Flacco in particular.
  • Miami 23, Jacksonville 12: The fact that the Dolphins had such a hard time beating the Redskins has me a little hesitant picking them but I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to take care of business against the Jaguars. If Jacksonville had all of its offensive weapons, like Julius Thomas and Marquis Lee (who may still be able to play), then I may have been tempted but the Miami defense should be able to take care of the group that the Jaguars will field Sunday.
  • Dallas 27, Philadelphia 20: While the Eagles need this win a lot more than the Cowboys, I could totally see them fall short followed by a week of sports talk radio asking if the Eagles’ season is over already. The answer is that it’s not; they just have a tough opening schedule.
  • Green Bay 27, Seattle 17: The idea of the Seahawks falling to 0-2 sounds ludicrous on paper but when you begin to realize how much Kam Chancellor means to that defense it becomes a little more believable. They’ll give a good fight but the Packers will get their revenge.
  • Indianapolis 23, New York Jets 17: Even though they could start 0-2 and would still have a great shot at winning the AFC South, this is a must-win game for a Colts team that sees themselves as Super Bowl contenders. I think the Jets will put up a tough fight but Andrew Luck will pull off another fourth quarter comeback.

All In The Cards: The Roster Needed To Succeed (Week 1 Recap)

I’m trying.

I’m trying really hard this season to have a realistic view of my Arizona Cardinals. Ever since their appearance in Super Bowl XLIII, every year I somehow convince myself that this is the year the Cardinals will win the Super Bowl. My delusions have been so insane that at one time or another I convinced myself that Matt Leinart and Kevin Kolb were good quarterbacks capable of leading the Cards to a Lombardi Trophy. Look, I was young and naïve back then. I’m an adult now and I need to face reality: sometimes you just don’t have the roster to succeed.

I’m not 100% sure the Cardinals have the roster to succeed this season. They did last year but injuries crippled them to the point that the roster that was set to succeed was unrecognizable by season’s end. The Cardinals have a couple less standouts this season (no more Antonio Cromartie), but what they do have over last year’s team is depth. When an injured Andre Ellington had to finally bow out for the rest of the season, a run game on life support died. We are through only one week of this season and the Cards face the same situation: generating a run game without Ellington. This time they were prepared. They drafted David Johnson out of Northern Iowa in the third round of the NFL Draft. They took a flier on the once great Chris Johnson. When Ellington went out in the fourth quarter, Chris Johnson was called upon to help run out the clock. He ran the ball seven times in that final quarter for 30 yards, including a 12 yard run on his first rush attempt after Ellington left. Then David Johnson sealed the game with a huge 55 yard receiving touchdown in the final minute. Without both of them, the Cards wouldn’t have been able to burn time off the clock and guarantee the victory.

The Cards’ approach this past offseason was to add quality depth so that what happened last year wouldn’t happen again this season. I know that sounds like the rational thing to do but you’d be surprised how many sports franchises are too stubborn to admit their mistakes and thus end up making them again. To see the Cardinals acknowledge their mistakes and spend all offseason correcting them makes me feel proud to be fan.

However there is still one problem that hasn’t been solved: what happens to the offense if Carson Palmer goes down again. Palmer looked amazing against the Saints, throwing for 307 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was able to scramble in the pocket to buy some time for his receivers to get open. Less than a year removed from a major leg injury and with two starting linemen out, Palmer was not sacked one time. Granted the Saints pass rush is average at best, but he was never sacked and only hit a few times, which he took very well. Drew Stanton used to be an acceptable backup because because both going into last season had similar skills. That’s not the case anymore. Palmer‘s improved arm strength and pocket presence makes the 2015 Arizona Cardinals a roster that can succeed. Without him this team can’t succeed. I can guarantee that Palmer will not get a single MVP vote this season, but if the Cards succeed he’ll be their most valuable player.

I’m not going to delude myself into thinking Palmer will definitely lead the Cards to a Super Bowl win this season, but a healthy Palmer makes the possibility real.

Some Card Numbers:

  • Who says Larry Fitzgerald is washed up? Fitzgerald happily accepted having Carson Palmer back and hauled in six catches for 87 yards to lead the Cards in receiving. The 87 receiving yards is the most he’s had in a season opener since he had 133 yards on nine catches against the San Francisco 49ers all the way back in 2006. Also worth noting is that four of Fitzgerald’s six catches went for first downs.
  • One last Fitzgerald note and what will be a running counter on this article: Fitzgerald extended his consecutive games with a catch streak to 164, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.
  • While throwing for 307 yards, Carson Palmer passed Jim Kelly for 21st on the all-time passing yards list.
  • The Cardinals have now won their last four home openers. Speaking of home games, the Cards are now 14-3 at home under Bruce Arians.
  • Last year the Cardinals had one of the best fourth quarter differentials in the NFL. This year they are already off to a great start with a +8 differential.

How I Did With Week 1 Predictions:

  • Arizona 31, New Orleans 19: Without Jimmy Graham to occupy a safety’s attention, the Cardinals secondary was able to neutralize the Saints wide receivers for the most part. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton cleverly countered by calling a bunch of screen passes, which really bothered the Cardinals defense all day. With Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears coming up next week, the Cards defense better practice their screen coverage. (1-0)
  • New England 28, Pittsburgh 21: This game feels like it was an eternity ago but New England prevailed because Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still on their A-game, Rob Gronkowski is unstoppable, and because Pittsburgh couldn’t communicate with each other (Just kidding on that last one). (Season Record: 2-0)
  • Buffalo 27, Indianapolis 14: I knew the Bills would be good (Rex Ryan teams always come to play) but the way they handled the Colts really surprised me. Even though the season just started the Colts need to turn things around quickly, especially with rumors of Coach Chuck Pagano being on the hot seat. (2-1)
  • Green Bay 31, Chicago 23: The Bears pleasantly surprised me with their performance against the Packers, coming very close to pulling off the win. Unfortunately the often-maligned Jay Cutler just became a little more maligned. Rodgers, 189 passing yards and three passing touchdowns, also showed why he’s the reigning MVP. (3-1)
  • New York Jets 31, Cleveland 10: What made Todd Bowles such a great defensive coordinator for the Cardinals was his ability to make perfect halftime adjustments. Fitting that he would get his first win as a head coach by having his Jets shutout out the Browns and force three turnovers in the second half. The Jets have some scary injuries but overall both this season and the future look bright. (4-1)
  • Kansas City 27, Houston 20: For most of the game I was wrong about the Texans, but then in the 4th quarter when Ryan Mallett took over I didn’t look as foolish. Also DeAndre Hopkins is a beast and should be considered as a cheaper alternative in fantasy leagues where you choose a new team on a weekly basis. I’m still taking a wait-and-see approach on Travis Kelce’s long-term fantasy impact. (4-2)
  • Louis 34, Seattle 31 (OT): I’m really kicking myself for not sticking to my gut and picking the Rams. The Rams always push NFC West teams to the limit and the Seahawks were vulnerable without Kam Chancellor. I worry about Seattle’s psyche going forward, especially after the botched onside kick and failed Marshawn Lynch fourth down run. (4-3)
  • Miami 17, Washington 10: This game was a lot closer than I thought which either means good news for the Redskins or bad news for the Dolphins. Also Jarvis Landry’s punt return touchdown was one of the best I have ever seen. Just the way he made it look so easy amazes me. (5-3)
  • Carolina 20, Jacksonville 9: I still stand by what I said about the Panthers offense needing some time but I’ll admit I didn’t give enough credit to their defense before making my pick. We’ll see if they can maintain this level if Luke Kuechly misses a lot of time due to his concussion. Also I may have overestimated the Jaguars’ progress. Still looks like there is a long way to go. (5-4)
  • San Diego 33, Detroit 28: Even though I called the Lions’ choke job, that doesn’t mean I’m proud of it. I was really hoping they would prove me wrong and start the season off on a high note, but instead they throw away a 21-3 first half lead. On the positive side, Keenan Allen started his third season off with a bang after he fell well short of expectations last season. If he can be a go-to receiver for Philip Rivers then the Chargers season suddenly looks more promising. (6-4)
  • Cincinnati 33, Oakland 13: The outcome was even bleaker for the Raiders than I predicted, barely avoiding a shutout with a couple of garbage time touchdowns. The Bengals made a huge statement in this game, telling everyone who picked Pittsburgh or Baltimore to win the division that they still hold the crown and they aren’t going away. (7-4)
  • Denver 19, Baltimore 13: I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that not a single offensive touchdown was scored in this game. While both defenses played at an elite level you can’t help but wonder if this is a sign of things to come, especially for Peyton Manning who has now gone without a touchdown pass in three of his last five games. (8-4)
  • Tennessee 42, Tampa Bay 14: It seems former Cardinals and current Titans Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt finally has a quarterback that he can properly gameplan around. Since the retirement of Kurt Warner, Coach Whiz has had the worst luck with starting quarterbacks but Marcus Mariota looks to have a bright future ahead of him. I’m not about to bury Jameis Winston but the performance really showcased his flaws. (8-5)
  • Dallas 27, New York Giants 26: This game was pure craziness. I definitely feel that Tony Romo’s reputation for choking in the fourth quarter is overblown and that he’s actually one of the better late-game quarterbacks. Both teams should have good seasons so I can’t wait for the rematch. Hopefully it will be just as entertaining. (8-6)
  • Atlanta 26, Philadelphia 24: I knew that the Eagles running game would be overhyped but I never expected a combined 11 carries for 13 yards from DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. Matt Ryan excelled under new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan just like I expected, and Julio Jones (nine receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns) is earning every penny of that new contract. Also shout out to former Indiana Hoosier Tevin Coleman for gaining 80 yards off 20 carries in his first NFL game. (9-6)
  • San Francisco 20, Minnesota 3: I’ve watched the Cardinals defense go up against Carlos Hyde a couple of times and I never would have imagined he would have a game like he did last night. Hyde’s 168 rushing yards and two touchdowns should be a great comfort for the 49ers and their fanbase which has gone through a lot of turnover and turmoil over the past year. Also I am dumbfounded by how underwhelming the Vikings performed. (9-7)

All In The Cards: Week 1

Anyone who has ever talked about the NFL with me knows that during that conversation, sooner or later, I’ll find a way to bring up my current opinion on the Arizona Cardinals. So why not create a weekly article where I write about those Cardinals? This column will differ from my “Hoosiers In The NBA” as I won’t be relying as much on stats, at least not early on in the season where one good/bad performance can skew the stats greatly.

Don’t worry: this will not just be a weekly long-winded rant about my favorite team (though if you want me to, just to pick my brain for psychological studies, I’d be more than happy to comply). Instead I will go over the Cards current matchup and give my prediction. Also, since fantasy football has almost become bigger than real football, I’ll give the Cardinal I feel will have the biggest fantasy performance this week as well as the best fantasy option from the opposing team based on their matchup with the Cards. Lastly I’ll make my picks for the week and give a short description explaining my pick. I’ll follow-up on it Tuesday to see whether I was right or wrong, but let’s not waste any more time with my explanations and get right to it.

New Orleans Saints @ Arizona Cardinals

Last Meeting: L 31-7 @ New Orleans (9/22/13)

The last time these two teams met, Drew Brees picked apart the Cards secondary to the tune of 342 passing yards and three touchdowns as the Saints rolled. While many players and coaches remain on both sides from that matchup two years ago, there is one glaring exception. To say Brees constantly read the defense and found the open man isn’t completely true. He basically found a weakness and abused that weakness until the game was out of reach. That weakness was the Cardinals inability to cover Jimmy Graham properly. Graham’s performance was proof that Graham vs. Gronk was a legit argument two years ago: nine receptions, 134 receiving yards, and two touchdowns.

The fact that the Cardinals still have trouble with great receiving tight ends is unfortunate since they’ll face Graham twice this season since he’s now in Seattle. However we are talking about New Orleans right now and there’s a hole in their offense without Graham. Sure Brees can still sling it but without a good tight end that can draw secondary help, Patrick Peterson and Co. can focus in on Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks. The Saints do have Ben Watson and Josh Hill filling in at tight end but Watson will be 35 by the end of the season and Hill has only proven to be a good redzone option and that was with Graham drawing coverage away from him. The Saints could run the ball with Mark Ingram but the Cardinals defense prides itself as one of the elite rush defenses so that will be easier said than done.

On the other side of the ball we see the return of Carson Palmer and he has been impressive in the preseason. Both Palmer and the coaching staff agree that his arm strength is the best it has been in a long time. Good thing too as he’ll be able to take advantage of having deep threats John Brown and JJ Nelson. Brown in particular is set up for a breakout season after amassing 696 receiving yards and five touchdowns during his rookie campaign. His ability to get behind almost any safety makes him a long touchdown pass waiting to happen. Also there is still Larry Fitzgerald, who may not be as fast as he once was but he is still a dangerous target in the redzone. A potential problem for the Cardinals offense is the fact they will have two backup offensive linemen starting with Mike Iupati and Bobby Massie being out to begin the season. This may be an issue in the coming weeks but not against a Saints’ defense that gave up the fifth most points last season and already have number big injuries on that side heading into week one.

Overall I don’t think I’m being biased when I say that the Cardinals are the favorite in this matchup. Add to the fact that University of Phoenix Stadium has been one of the best home field advantages since Coach Bruce Arians arrived and that the Saints have a tendency to struggle away from the Superdome and I think the Cardinals start the season with a win. The score will probably be closer than the actual game, with a high likelihood that the Saints will add a score late in the fourth in one final push.

Prediction: Arizona 27, New Orleans 20

Fantasy Advice:

I think Carson Palmer will have a big day as he hopes to start the season off on a great note. Palmer likes to share the ball around so picking one wide receiver is tricky but I just got done writing that John Brown will have a breakout season so I’d call him the safest bet, especially since he can outran nearly anyone who tries to cover him. For the Saints I like Drew Brees to rack up a lot of yards but if you are in a league where touchdowns from skill players mean more I’d go with Mark Ingram as he is the safest bet to score at the goaline as well as rack up some good yards over the course of the game.

Week 1 Predictions:

  • New England 27, Pittsburgh 17: Picked this before the game last night (you can check the timestamp on my Facebook and Twitter post if you don’t believe me.) Thought getting Tom Brady back at the start of the season would prove key and it did. Also there’s Gronk and the since-dead “Best Tight End” debate.
  • Indianapolis 23, Buffalo 13: I’ll go ahead and say that I’m picking the Colts to win the Super Bowl this season so I expect them to take care of business week one, even if it is against a pretty good team.
  • Green Bay 34, Chicago 20: Losing Jordy Nelson stinks but as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy the Packers offense is unstoppable. Tough first task for a revamped Bears defense.
  • New York Jets 16, Cleveland 10: I may have made the score too high. Both teams’ defenses are miles ahead of their offenses. Going with the Jets because their defense is more likely to score a touchdown.
  • Houston 24, Kansas City 23: Call it a hunch. I think Houston will be better than people think and they’ll catch the Chiefs by surprise.
  • Seattle 24, St. Louis 16: I’m very intrigued by the Rams as they have continuously added young assets the past couple of years. However, now is the time to start profiting or else they may go in rebuilding mode again. If it wasn’t against a division foe who knows how dangerous this team can be, I would have taken the Rams.
  • Miami 31, Washington 14: Before last night I was going to write that the Dolphins have a really good chance of taking the AFC East crown from the Patriots but that seems a lot less likely now. Still think Miami is a playoff team while Washington is not.
  • Jacksonville 20, Carolina 16: It’s going to take awhile for the Panthers’ offense to start clicking again after the injury to Kelvin Benjamin. The Jaguars are still a year or two away from being a playoff team but I see them showing their fans that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
  • San Diego 27, Detroit 23: This one is also a hunch. I want to pick Detroit but this seems just like a game the Lions would choke away. I’m not too high on San Diego but I think they get the win here.
  • Cincinnati 27, Oakland 10: Oakland is a little further behind than the Jaguars but there is hope. However in this matchup, I don’t see any hope.
  • Denver 35, Baltimore 27: In what may very likely be Peyton Manning’s last season opener, I don’t see him losing even if it is against a good team like the Ravens.
  • Tampa Bay 23, Tennessee 20: Both teams have a lot to look forward to in the coming seasons but not so much this year. I could totally see both Winston and Mariota exchanging fourth quarter scoring drives. Picking the Bucs because they’re at home.
  • New York Giants 33, Dallas 31: It’s almost become a yearly tradition to see the Giants beat the Cowboys at Jerry World. I don’t really see anything that would tell me it can’t happen again.
  • Atlanta 28, Philadelphia 24: New Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn is set up for a great first season and I think that season starts with a win. I’m still not entirely sure I trust the Eagles.
  • Minnesota 24, San Francisco 13: I’ve rooted against the 49ers longer than any other team but even I can’t help but feel bad. I’d like to say they win their stadium opener but Minnesota is poised for a big season if Teddy Bridgewater continues to improve.