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
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.