The Cardinals finally defeated “big brother” to take full control of the NFC West as Arizona now has a three game lead with seven games to go. However, the Cards don’t have any time to rest as they face another tough opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals. With the Bengals coming off their first loss of the season, the Cardinals will be facing a team determined to get back on track and will one that that will try to take advantage of Arizona’s mental fatigue after the Cards’ win in Seattle. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s take a look at this matchup of division leaders:
Cincinnati Bengals @ Arizona Cardinals
Last Meeting: L 23-16 @ Cincinnati (11/24/11)
There are a number of reasons why this game was flexed into primetime. Both teams are among the best in their conferences. Both teams are historically mediocre franchises who have been given hope this season. However, the biggest reason this game will be played on Sunday night instead of Sunday afternoon like it was originally scheduled is due to the resurgence of quarterback Carson Palmer.
At the age of 35, Palmer is on pace to have his greatest statistical season, as his 2,749 passing yards and 23 passing touchdowns puts him on pace for 4,887 passing yards and 41 touchdowns. Here is a look at some of Palmer’s best seasons:
- 2005 (Cin) – 3,836 pass yards, 67.8% pass comp, 32 TDs, 12 INTs, 101.1 QBR
- 2006 (Cin) – 4,035 pass yards, 62.3% pass comp, 28 TDs, 13 INTs, 93.9 QBR
- 2007 (Cin) – 4,131 pass yards, 64.9% pass comp, 26 TDs, 20 INTs, 86.7 QBR
- 2010 (Cin) – 3,970 pass yards, 61.8% pass comp, 26 TDs, 20 INTs, 82.4 QBR
- 2012 (Oak) – 4,018 pass yards, 61.1% pass comp, 22 TDs, 14 INTs, 85.3 QBR
- 2013 (Ari) – 4,274 pass yards, 63.3% pass comp, 24 TDs, 22 INTs, 83.9 QBR
- 2014 (Ari) – 1,626 pass yards, 62.9% pass comp, 11 TDs, 3 INTs, 95.6 QBR (6 games)
Now compare those seasons to the nine games Palmer has played this season:
- 2015 (Ari) – 2,749 pass yards, 64.0% pass comp, 23 TDs, 7 INTs, 108.0 QBR
By looking at those stat lines, there is no clear answer as to which was Palmer’s previous best season. However, if you are given the option to couple back-to-back seasons together I think the answer would be the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Other than the fact that those seasons were 10 years ago, something very important happened between those two seasons: Palmer’s first major leg injury in the 2005 playoffs. It’s very interesting that he played his previous two best seasons before and after that injury, because a decade later Palmer is again having back-to-back career seasons, one before a major leg injury (2014) and one after that injury (2015).
Now I have no way to completely explain why this has occurred (maybe it’s a complete coincidence), but to me it feels like Palmer has a strong determination to continue what he starts. He’s a veteran who has traveled the beaten path and, due to succumbing to multiple serious leg injuries, knows that he only has a limited amount of chances to leave that mark.
Sunday night Palmer has a chance to take a big step toward leaving his mark. This week will be the second time in Palmer’s career that he will face the Bengals with the first time coming in 2012 when his Oakland Raiders lost 34-10. In that game, Palmer completed 19 of his 34 passes for just 146 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
This time around Palmer will be facing a good but not great Cincinnati defense. The Bengals rank 13th in both passing yards allowed (236.3) and rushing yards allowed (102.4). After throwing for 363 yards against a Seattle defense that still ranks second in passing yards allowed (202.8), Palmer should be able to throw on a tamer Bengals secondary while playing in front of the home crowd. Meanwhile, Andy Dalton will have to rely on Tyler Eifert a lot as Patrick Peterson (17 receptions allowed on 35 passes targeted towards his assignment) will more than likely shut down A.J. Green. As long as the rest of the secondary can slow down Eifert, the Bengals will have a hard time passing effectively.
While beating his former team would be great for Palmer, the main reason this game is so huge for Palmer is that a win would bring him and his team confidence as the playoffs approach. The Cardinals proved a lot of things with their win in Seattle last week but the fact still remains that Arizona has yet to beat a team with a winning record. While the Seahawks could still make the playoffs, there is no guarantee that they will, where as the Bengals are almost certainly going to the playoffs unless they lose the rest of their games. A win over Seattle proved the Cardinals were the best in the NFC West, but a win at home in primetime against a championship-contender would solidify Arizona as a championship-contender itself and would improve Palmer’s a chances of becoming a champion, the ultimate way a quarterback can leave their mark in the NFL.
Prediction: Arizona 27, Cincinnati 20
My Week 11 NFL predictions:
- Jacksonville 26, Tennessee 20
- Atlanta 24, Indianapolis 23
- Denver 16, Chicago 13
- Dallas 27, Miami 17
- Oakland 31, Detroit 21
- Baltimore 23, St. Louis 17
- New York Jets 20, Houston 19
- Philadelphia 28, Tampa Bay 23
- Carolina 20, Washington 10
- Kansas City 23, San Diego 20
- Green Bay 24, Minnesota 20
- Seattle 27, San Francisco 13
- New England 28, Buffalo 20
Week 10 Record: 4-10
Week 11 Record: 1-0
Season Record: 91-56 (.619)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2