All In The Cards: The Top Ten Moments From An Amazing Cardinals Season

IMPORTANT NOTE: Thank you all for your support this season! Even the though the playing season is over, I will still be covering the Arizona Cardinals during the offseason so look forward to more content to come. For this article I’m going to focus more on recapping the Cardinals season, but I will have a few thoughts on the NFC Championship game at the bottom of the article. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for analysis of all Arizona Cardinals news.

The greatest season in Arizona Cardinals franchise history came to an abrupt end over this weekend, as the Cardinals were unable to write a happy ending to a storybook season. While this team failed to make the Super Bowl and win the Lombardi Trophy, it’s very hard not to consider this season a success. Along with breaking almost every single franchise record, the Cardinals also gained national respect, something the franchise lacked even during prior winning seasons. Part of the reason was that Arizona was 5-0 on nationally televised games before losing to the Panthers. It was a surprise in the past when the Cardinals succeeded but now it’s expected, and this season marked that transition.

For my season recap, I’m going to list the top ten moments from this unforgettable season. Some were great in the moment but will likely be forgotten with the passage of time, while others will be remembered forever. Here are the top ten moments from the Arizona Cardinals’ 2015 season:

10) Chris Johnson’s Cut-Back Run Against Ravens – Possibly the best run of Chris Johnson’s renaissance season. Johnson has always been known as a speedster who just outran every defender so for him to transform into an inside back who isn’t as fast but is fast enough to break tackles is pretty incredible. No run this season showed his new ability to break tackles then his cut-back 26-yard touchdown run when he went right, stopped on a dime and switched back to the left while breaking a tackle and beating everyone to the endzone.

9) Palmer Scrambles for Game-Winner Over 49ers – This past NFL season had a lot of instances of older, less-mobile quarterbacks having huge plays with their feet. Carson Palmer is no exception as Palmer scored the game-winning touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers when he escaped the pocket in the redzone and jogged into the endzone. I say “jog” but he actually ran but it didn’t look like it. Then Palmer nearly gave himself a concussion when he tried to spike the ball but fell over. It was like watching a middle-aged father getting a little too competitive at a family tow-hand touch football game and it was glorious to watch in the moment.

8) Cory Redding Stiff Arms Lacy, Scores TD – It’s always fun when a defensive lineman scores a touchdown, but what made this eve more great was that Packers running back Eddie Lacy made a real effort to stop Cory Redding but Redding just threw Lacy aside and kept rumbling towards the endzone. If it was any other running back that wouldn’t be a big deal but Lacy weights 235 pounds and is built like a linebacker. Redding made people forget that mometarily the way he stiff-armed him.

7) Palmer Leads Game-Winning Drive Against Bengals – One minute to go in a tied game with no timeouts. Palmer not only led a Cardinals’ drive that set up the game-winning field goal, but he did it against his former team. There were quite a few game-winning or go-ahead drives that Palmer led this season but this one was probably the most special one.

6) Fitzgerald Catches 5 TDs In 2 Games – After what was likely his worst statistical season last year, Larry Fitzgerald was a man on a mission to show he wasn’t done being an elite receiver. In route to what was likely his best statistical season, Fitzgerald had amazing back-to-back games during weeks two and three of the season where he scored a combined five touchdowns. Against the Chicago Bears Fitzgerald hauled in eight catches for 112 yards and three touchdowns, while against the 49ers he grabbed nine catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the season with 109 receptions for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns.

5) Back-to-Back Pick-Sixes – That 49ers game in week three also produced another memorable moment when the Arizona secondary scored on two interceptions during the first six minutes of the game. Justin Bethal took his first career interception to the house at the 11:06 mark of the first quarter. Then on the very next drive, Tyrann Mathieu intercepted Colin Kaepernick and returned that one to the endzone at the 9:03 mark of the first quarter. Overall, the Cardinals intercepted Kaepernick four times and the Cardinals destroyed the 49ers 47-7.

4) David Johnson goes “Beast Mode” On Eagles – David Johnson had a fantastic rookie season and may finally give the Cardinals a workhorse back that they haven’t had in a very long time. He cemented that feeling when he ran for 187 yards and three touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles during week 15. Johnson had quite a few big runs in the game but none were bigger or more impressive than his 47-yard touchdown run near the end of the second quarter that quickly reminded many of Marshawn Lynch’s legendary “Beast Mode” run in the 2010 playoffs. Johnson broke through as many as five tackles as he sprinted down the sideline to give Arizona a 17-10 lead in a game where the Cardinals would never trail again.

3) Freeney Strip Sacks Bridgewater – Dwight Freeney showed this season that even at age 35 that his spin move is still unstoppable. No moment was the veteran pass-rusher needed more than when he strip-sacked Teddy Bridgewater to end the Minnesota Vikings attempt to send the game to overtime. On the play, Freeney executed his famous spin move and obliterated left tackle Matt Kalil so he was able to get to Bridgewater before he could throw it away. Calais Campbell scooped up the ball and the Cardinals earned a playoff spot thanks to that victory.

2) Ellington Seals Win In Seattle – Although he did have the same kind of numbers as the Johnson duo, Andre Ellington made an impact for the Cardinals when he did play. No run was more important than the one that sealed Arizona’s win over the Seahawks in Seattle. Holding onto a 32-29 lead after holding the Seahawks to a punt, Ellington at first converted a 3rd-and-4 near midfield but didn’t stop there as his tightrope act along the left sideline kept him in-bounds and let him get enough separation to beat a Seahawks defense to the endzone on a play they likely gave up on thinking he had stepped out of bounds. It sealed an important road win and caused Drew Stanton to have one of the greatest celebrations in history.

1) Fitzgerald Wills Cardinals Over Packers in Overtime – Even though the Cardinals only won one playoff game, the way it was won was very special. While the winning touchdown on the shovel pass was both a great play call and executed perfectly by the players, it was the 75-yard pass reception by Larry Fitzgerald on the first play of overtime that earns the best moment from this past Cardinals season. Palmer executes a perfect spin move to escape pressure and finds Fitzgerald completely wide open and had a Cardinals first down at midfield. Yet, as described by Fitz himself, he said forget first down and cut back to the middle of the field and went for the walkoff. While he didn’t quite make the endzone he score two plays later but his decision to turn a 30-yard pass into a 75-yard pass showed how one player could will a team to victory.


Final Thoughts About Arizona’s NFC Championship Game Loss:

  • The stage was definitely too big for the Cardinals as many great players folded under the pressure. It’s hard to win when your stars aren’t performing well, and Calais Campbell (two false starts), Patrick Peterson (fumbled punt return), and especially Carson Palmer (six turnovers, many other bad decisions) were not playing like stars. Even Larry Fitzgerald, statistically the greatest wide receiver in NFL playoff history, dropped two passes on the night. When Fitzgerald drops a tipped pass that was still catchable and Ted Ginn does catch a tipped pass, it’s just not your night.
  • Piggybacking on the idea that the stage was too big for the Cardinals, I think in hindsight it was too much to ask this Cardinals organization to win a championship during the team’s first season as a contender when the role is so foreign for the franchise. I get the urgency because a lot of the key guys have only a limited time left in the NFL, building a winner is a step-by-step process and Arizona already completed a bunch of steps this season.
  • While there were still a few chances to come back later in the game, the Cardinals were destined to lose after Peterson tried to get a few extra yards out of a punt return and fumbled it back to the Panthers. Although the Cards were down 17-7, they had taken back momentum thanks to some excellent running by David Johnson and then immediately forced Cam Newton and the Carolina offense into a three-and-out. Then Brad Nortman, the Carolina punter, shanked a punt that only traveled 34 yards and was heading out of bounds. If Peterson had left the punt alone, things could have gotten interesting. I’m not going to claim the Cards definitely would have won but it would have been a much better game. Instead, the Panthers recover and proceed to score a touchdown.
  • Lastly I want to give major props to a Panthers team that has building towards this for three years and were without a doubt the better team. Because the NFL is a pass-happy league, Carolina’s run-oriented offense seems out of place and I feel that is part of the reason people have been skeptical of the Panthers. All I hear is “if you stop the run, can they pass to win?” The answer is yes because Cam Newton has improved so much with his passing that he’s making his receivers better instead of needing great receivers to bail him out. That’s the same trait that Tom Brady and Russell Wilson have in them. The Panthers are going to be a team to reckon with for the next five to seven years.

My Wild Card Game Picks:

  • Kansas City 23, Houston – Correct (KC 30-0) (1-0)
  • Cincinnati 27, Pittsburgh 24 – Incorrect (Pit 18-16) (1-1)
  • Seattle 20, Minnesota 17 – Correct (Sea 10-9) (2-1)
  • Washington 31, Green Bay 23 – Incorrect (GB 35-18) (2-2)

My Divisional Round Picks:

  • New England 20, Kansas City 16 – Correct (NE 27-20) (3-2)
  • Arizona 34, Green Bay 27 – Correct (Ari 26-20 OT) (4-2)
  • Carolina 24, Seattle 23 – Correct (Car 31-24) (5-2)
  • Denver 24, Pittsburgh 13 – Correct (Den 23-16) (6-2)

My Conference Championship Picks:

  • New England 24, Denver 16 – Incorrect (Den 20-18) (6-3)
  • Arizona 31, Carolina 29 – Incorrect (Car 49-15) (6-4)

Regular Season Record: 159-97 (.621)
Playoff Record: 6-4 (.600)
Total Record: 165-101 (.620)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

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All In The Cards: Fitz Owns Philly (Week 15)

Welcome to a new edition of All In The Cards! This week the Arizona Cardinals play yet another primetime game, this time against the Philadelphia Eagles. This week I’m going to go over why the “City of Brotherly Love” doesn’t love Larry Fitzgerald. 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. Now let’s take a closer look at how Larry Fitzgerald has become a nightmare for all Eagles’ fans:

Arizona Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles

Last Meeting: W 24-20 vs. Philadelphia (10/26/14)

For one reason or another, sometimes a player just performs very well against a specific team. There are many terms for this phenomenon, with the most common term being that “a player owns another team”. Well there’s no denying that Larry Fitzgerald “owns” the Philadelphia Eagles. Just look at the game logs from his seven career games against them:

  • 2005: 5 receptions, 93 receiving yards, touchdown (W 27-21)
  • 2008 (regular season): 5 receptions, 65 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns (L 48-20)
  • 2008 (postseason): 9 receptions, 152 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns (W 32-25)
  • 2011: 7 receptions, 146 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns (W 21-17)
  • 2012: 9 receptions, 114 receiving yards, touchdown (W 27-6)
  • 2013: 5 receptions, 72 receiving yards, touchdown (L 24-21)
  • 2014: 7 receptions, 160 receiving yards, touchdown (W 24-20)

Add up all seven games and it gives you these totals: 47 receptions, 802 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns. His 114.6 receiving yards per game against the Eagles are the second most he has against any team (trailing only the 115.3 receiving yards per game he averages against the Chicago Bears). His 11 touchdowns against the Eagles is the third most he has against any team, with the top two being against division rivals that he faces twice a year (16 vs. St. Louis and 14 vs. San Francisco).

The weirdest thing about this matchup is how reliably well Fitzgerald performs against the Eagles regardless of how he’s doing that particular season. In both 2012 and 2014, seasons where Fitzgerald failed to gain 800 receiving yards on the season or grab at least five touchdowns, he still had over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown against Philadelphia, with both games marking his single-game high for yards that season.

The best reason I can come up with for how Fitzgerald always seems to shine against the Eagles is because playing Philadelphia gives him extraordinary confidence. That confidence comes from the fact that Philadelphia was the opponent Fitzgerald faced in what is currently his biggest win of his career: the 2008 NFC Championship game. During the first half of that game, Fitz not only had his best half of his career, but possibly the greatest single half by a receiver in NFL history: 6 receptions for 113 yards and three touchdowns. That scoring outburst gave Arizona enough of a cushion to withstand the Eagles’ inevitable second-half comeback. With 10:39 left in the fourth quarter and down 25-24, Fitzgerald recorded all three of his second half receptions on Arizona’s 14-play touchdown drive that gave the Cardinals the lead for good with 2:53 remaining and punched the team’s first ticket to the Super Bowl.

You can now see why I’m so confident in the Cardinals winning this game. With one win away from clinching the team’s first NFC West title since the Kurt Warner-era, Fitzgerald (one of only three Cardinals left from that NFC Championship team) is facing the team that has brought him nothing but good fortune. I know the Eagles have played better as of late, but this game just seems destined to go Arizona’s way.

Prediction: Arizona 35, Philadelphia 17

How I Did With My Week 14 NFL Predictions:

  • St. Louis 31, Tampa Bay 23: (0-1)
  • New York Jets 27, Dallas 17
  • Jacksonville 31, Atlanta 17
  • Washington 24, Buffalo 20
  • Minnesota 23, Chicago 19
  • New England 38, Tennessee 13
  • Houston 27, Indianapolis 24
  • Kansas City 30, Baltimore 16
  • Carolina 31, New York Giants 30
  • Seattle 34, Cleveland 10
  • Oakland 28, Green Bay 24
  • Cincinnati 19, San Francisco 16
  • Pittsburgh 31, Denver 17
  • Miami 16, San Diego 13
  • New Orleans 37, Detroit 34

Week 14 Record: 9-7
Week 15 Record: 0-1
Season Record: 127-82 (.608)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

 

 

All In The Cards: Can Arizona Overcome Its Monday Night Woes? (Week 7)

Welcome back to a new edition of All In the Cards! This week the Cardinals will have a chance to showcase their high-flying offense and ferocious defense on a national stage as they play the Baltimore Ravens Monday night. It will be the first of the Cards’ three nationally televised games planned for this season (I say planned because NBC has the option to switch in better games for Sunday Night Football later in the season). Let’s take a look at the Cardinals recent history with Monday Night Football and how they matchup with the Ravens. 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 see how these two teams stack up against each other:

Baltimore Ravens @ Arizona Cardinals

Last Meeting: L 30-27 at. Baltimore (10/30/11)

Even though it occurred nine years ago last week, you can’t mention the Arizona Cardinals and Monday night football without quoting former Cards’ head coach Dennis Green’s famous postgame comments.

The quote has since taken on a life of its own so many might not remember what Green was talking about during his press room meltdown.

The stage was Monday Night Football, week six of the 2006 NFL Season. The Chicago Bears, who came into the game 5-0 and would eventually make it all the way to Super Bowl XLI only to lose to the Indianapolis Colts, faced off against the 1-4 Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals had a great defensive gameplan, as they harassed Bears quarterback Rex Grossman and forced him to turn the ball over four times in the first half (two fumbles and two interceptions). Because of those added possessions, the Cards found themselves leading 20-0 at halftime. The defense never let up as they forced two more Grossman interceptions and allowed the Bears offense to score only one field goal the entire game.

Then the epic collapse that spurred Green’s comments ensued.

On the final play of the third quarter with Arizona up 23-3, Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart was stripped by defensive end Mark Anderson and safety Mike Brown scooped it up for a three-yard touchdown. The Cards played scared the entire fourth quarter and it cost them. With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the great Brian Urlacher stripped the ball from running back Edgerrin James and cornerback Charles Tillman picked up the fumble and returned it 40 yards to cut the Cards lead to 23-17. Two minutes later the Cardinals offense was stopped again and forced to punt. That ball was punted to Devin Hester, who promptly returned it 83 yards to give the Bears the 24-23 lead. To add insult to injury, the Cards had one last chance but saw their kicker Neil Rackers (who led the NFL the previous season in field goal percentage) miss the game-winning 40-yard attempt.

While it has never gotten that bad since, the Cardinals have still struggled when it has come to playing the final game of the week. Over the past ten years, the Cardinals are 2-5 when playing on Monday nights, with wins coming only in 2008 (29-24 win over San Francisco) and in 2014 (18-17 win over San Diego). Interestingly enough, the other four losses have all come against the 49ers (20-17 in 2007, 24-9 in 2009, 27-6 in 2010, and 24-3 in 2012).

From all of that, I think one can see the importance of this week’s game for Arizona. The Cards are expected to destroy the 1-5 Ravens on national television and prove to the public that these are not the same old Cardinals. It’s a chance for them to show the public they are who we think they are (a Super Bowl contender).

The matchup heavily favors Arizona. The Ravens are both 27th in passing defense (286 yards per game) and turnover differential (-5). On the other side of the ball, only three teams have thrown the ball more than Baltimore (San Diego, Detroit and Houston), and the Ravens have already abandoned the running game before this season, which is a bad decision against Arizona’s ninth ranked pass defense (224 yards per game).

The Cards SHOULD win this game easily but history dictates that this game will be much harder than expected. The Ravens are a proud team and while their season is probably over, that won’t stop them from trying to turn things around. It should be a fun one in the desert.

Prediction: Arizona 33, Baltimore 17

Fantasy Advice:

Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and John Brown are must starts against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. The Ravens have allowed an average of 222 receiving yards against opposing wide receiver groups and have given up nine touchdowns. For the Ravens, I actually recommend Joe Flacco, who has the second most pass attempts in the NFL and will probably have to throw a lot again if the Ravens fall behind early. Just be weary of potential turnovers.

This week’s Thursday night pick:

  • Prediction: San Francisco 20, Seattle 17
  • Actual Score: Seattle 20, San Francisco 3
  • Whoops, it seems I didn’t follow my own advice for picking Thursday night games. Hindsight is 20/20, but it looks like a shorter week benefited the Seahawks more as they were able to put their fourth-quarter troubles behind them by shutting out the 49ers in the fourth quarter. Despite all the problems, there is still hope in Seattle. If the Seahawks can win again next week (they face a reeling Cowboys team so the odds are in Seattle’s favor) they’ll go into their bye week back at .500 with a Sunday night home matchup against the Cardinals to follow. The Seahawks proved they still owned the 49ers, so there’s hope that they still own the Cardinals as well.

Other NFL Week 7 Predictions:

  • Buffalo 23, Jacksonville 20: With EJ Manuel set to take the start for the Bills, I’m really tempted to pick the Jaguars. Against my better judgment, I’ll stick with the Bills because I think they are a better football team even with Manuel running the offense.
  • Atlanta 38, Tennessee 13: When you combine a Falcons team trying to bounce back from their first loss of the season with a Titans team that will have Zach Mettenberger starting at quarterback, you’re going to end up with a blowout.
  • St. Louis 19, Cleveland 16: Todd Gurley will play his first home game against the worst run defense in the NFL. I’ve underestimated the Browns plenty of times this season, as well as overestimate the Rams, but that matchup is too tempting not to pick the Rams.
  • Minnesota 17, Detroit 13: I’m happy to see that the Lions got their first win of the season last week, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are a flawed football team going against quietly one of the best defenses in football. I expect a lot of turnovers in this game and another ugly win for the Vikings
  • Indianapolis 31, New Orleans 24: Fake punt aside, the Colts actually looked fairly impressive against the Patriots and can really start building momentum with a win against the Saints. Andrew Luck should be able to carve up the Saints’ secondary as he continues to turn his season around.
  • Pittsburgh 24, Kansas City 6: With an improving defense and an offense that found a spark behind backup Landry Jones, I see the Steelers demolishing a Chiefs team that looks like it is in a complete downward spiral. If the Chiefs want to turn it around this is probably their last chance.
  • Miami 23, Houston 21: Both teams are looking up after promising wins last week but I think the Dolphins’ turnaround has more substance. Last week was the first time this season we saw the Miami team we all thought we were going to see at the beginning of the season, and I see the Dolphins making it back to .500 with a win.
  • New England 26, New York Jets 20: The game of the week features Todd Bowles’ first crack at gameplanning against Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. I think the Patriots will come out of this game still undefeated, but the Jets are going to give them one heck of a fight.
  • Washington 27, Tampa Bay 17: A complete toss-up for me, so I’ll go with the home team. The Redskins have played well enough over the course of the season that a Washington win looks more likely, but then again they have lost a few games late. Let’s just move on before I change my mind again.
  • Oakland 37, San Diego 31: You can only put up so many amazing performances like Philip Rivers has done this season and not get depressed by the results. This might be that game. I expect Rivers to have another fantastic performance but I feel the Chargers as a whole will not be able to do enough to beat the Raiders.
  • New York Giants 23, Dallas 13: I don’t think Matt Cassel is a big enough upgrade over Brandon Weeden for me to consider taking the Cowboys over the Giants. Plus New York is trying to bounce back from the disaster that was the Philadelphia game and should be locked in from the first snap.
  • Philadelphia 24, Carolina 20: I know the Panthers will get their first loss soon but I’m not sure how soon. If not this week, then probably during the next two weeks when they go against the Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers. I’m going with the Eagles because they know a win would set them apart from the rest of the NFC East.

All In The Cards: Arizona’s Fountain Of Youth

Welcome to this special edition of All In The Cards! 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:

In the early sixteenth century, a popular legend spread about a magical fountain that could rejuvenate the elderly. In 1513, Spanish Conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon’s search for that mythical place led him to discover Florida, and to this day St. Augustine uses this story to create tourism. No one ever found the fountain, so it became an unattainable myth. I guess nobody checked Glendale, Arizona.

Around 500 years later in the year 2013, Steve Keim became the Arizona Cardinals General Manager and set out to rebuild the franchise. With new head coach Bruce Arians, Keim built his team around the draft, retain young talent, and fill out the rest of the roster out with veterans who would help mentor the younger players. To get the best mentors, the Cardinals needed players who were great but past their prime and at the tail end of their careers.

No player fit this description better than John Abraham. One of the greatest pass-rushers in NFL history, Abraham was on the verge of retiring when he got a call from the Cardinals. In 2013, at the age of 35, the long-time veteran proved he wasn’t done by recording 11.5 sacks, the most he had since 2010.

Also in 2013, the Cardinals saw one of their former franchise players, Karlos Dansby, return home after three disappointing years with the Miami Dolphins. At the age of 32, Dansby produced more sacks (6.5) than he did in his three years with Miami (6). Dansby also intercepted a career-high four passes and scored two defensive touchdowns. After his renaissance season, Dansby was rewarded in free agency with a multi-year contract from the Cleveland Browns, something that looked impossible when he signed his one-year contract with Arizona.

While Dansby stayed only one season, his success opened the floodgates for the Cardinals. In 2014, several top older veterans signed with the Cardinals hopeful of revisiting their primes. While Larry Foote (34 years old) and Tommy Kelly (33) played big roles for Arizona’s first playoff team since 2009, cornerback Antonio Cromartie (30) did the most to prove you can resurrect your career in Arizona.

Forced to play opposite Patrick Peterson, Cromartie was constantly targeted by opposing offenses as the matchup they could exploit. However, by the end of the year opponents were more likely to target Peterson’s man instead after Cromartie continuously made teams pay for throwing against him. Cromartie finished with 48 tackles, which was his most in a season since having 64 in 2008 with the Chargers, and added three interceptions. He became one of the most recruited free agents this past offseason and ended up back with the New York Jets on a multi-year deal.

With back-to-back successes, even more veterans came flooding in this season. Those signings included LaMarr Woodley and Sean Weatherspoon, who may not be old but were looking to turn their careers around after major injuries.

However, the biggest story so far this season has been the resurgence of former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson. After playing six seasons with the Tennessee Titans and rushing for 7,965 yards, Johnson had his worst season in 2014 with the Jets. Only months away from his 30th birthday (usually the expiration date for running backs) he had rushed for only 663 yards and one touchdown, and he looked like a small speedster who had finally taken one too many hits. Things got worse in the offseason. Johnson was shot in the shoulder in March and found himself without a team going into training camp.

Johnson was thinking about retirement when the Cards expressed interest in him during the preseason as Andre Ellington’s backup. The result has been nothing short of incredible: Through five weeks Johnson is tied for second in the NFL with 405 rushing yards. Johnson is on pace for 1,200 yards and averaging his most yards per carry (5.1) since his 2,000-yard season in 2008 (5.6). There is no way he will top that season, but 1,200 yards would be an accomplishment itself.

This veteran rejuvenation isn’t restricted to one-year rental players. Now in his third season with the Cardinals, Carson Palmer has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL the last two seasons, when he’s been healthy. Becuase of his recent performance, it might be hard to remember that Palmer’s career looked like it was over before he found himself in the desert. Palmer was traded to the Cardinals during the 2013 offseason and in exchange the Oakland Raiders received a seventh-round draft pick. In contrast, the Raiders had to trade a first- and a second-round draft pick to the Cincinnati Bengals to acquire Palmer in 2011. That’s how far his value dropped in just two seasons as the Raiders’ starting quarterback. Now at age 35 he’s playing just as well as he did during his best seasons in Cincinnati.

Other Cardinals, such as defensive end Frostee Rucker, have been having career years despite being their thirties. Last season Rucker, at age 31, had a career-high five sacks and tied his career-high for forced fumbles with two.

This season the most unlikely of players is having a career year: Larry Fitzgerald. The only time he has had more catches (35) for more yards (490) through five games was 2005, when he had 36 catches for 504 yards, and only in 2009 did he have as many touchdowns (5) through five games.

The reason that Fitzgerald is having a career year at 32 is because he has become just as dangerous in the slot as he was as an outside receiver. Fitzgerald can now line up anywhere to create mismatches for the defense. Being in the slot means not being covered by shutdown corners, and if teams do decide to shift their best corner onto Fitzgerald when he is in the slot, they risk putting a weaker defensive back on one of the outside receivers (John Brown or Michael Floyd) and getting burned on the long ball. It’s amazing to think that a guaranteed future hall-of-famer may not have completed his best season yet.


How Has This Been Happening?

It’s worth noting that many athletes have resurrected their careers in Arizona, most famously with the Phoenix Suns and their top-level medical/training staff. However, the Cardinals’ Fountain of Youth is separate from that of the Suns. The Cards’ Fountain of Youth is linked to one individual: Bruce Arians.

In 2013, the almost 61-year-old coach finally achieved his goal of becoming an NFL head coach and told many people that “this is my last stop so I’m going to have fun with it.” That attitude has spread to his veteran players, who see Arians as an inspiration. Here is a man almost twice as old as most of his players acting like he is in the prime of his life. When you play for Arians, age is not an excuse. So older players give it their all and are rewarded with important roles on the team.

The secret behind why washed-up veterans do so well for the Cardinals is that Arians and his staff give them roles instead of positions. Instead of trying to make a player fit into a position, the coaching staff develops plays and creates gameplans centered on letting these players do what they do best within the context of the game. Abraham’s job in 2013 was to rush the passer, so when a play called for extra coverage and thus no extra blitzers, Abraham was trusted to create that extra pressure to make the quarterback feel like he was still being blitzed but without the benefit of having a wide-open receiver.

That brings us to this week, as the Cardinals signed former Colts pass-rusher Dwight Freeney in the wake of Alex Okafor’s injury. One of the best defensive ends in NFL history, Freeney has accumulated 111.5 sacks and has had seven seasons with 10 or more sacks. With this signing, Arizona hopes Freeney can fill in for Okafor and improve the pass rush as a whole when Okafor returns. However, at age 37, Freeney hasn’t been great in a long time, last having double-digit sacks in 2010.

You may want to shake off the signing of Freeney as unimportant, but based on the Cardinal’s track record, this may become the pass rush help this team has needed since Abraham retired. If is anything left in Freeney’s tank, he’ll find it in Arizona.

All In The Cards: Week 5

Welcome back a new edition of All In the Cards! This week the Cardinals try to rebound from a disappointing loss to the St. Louis Rams by taking on the Detroit Lions. Both recent history and statistics say the Cards have a great shot at winning but anything can happen in the NFL. 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 see how these two teams stack up against each other:

Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions

Last Meeting: W 14-6 vs. Detroit (11/16/14), Cards have won last six meetings (last Detroit win was 11/13/05)

We all knew the Arizona Cardinals wouldn’t go undefeated and I even said last week that there was a chance it would end against the Rams. With the Cards losing there are now six teams left in the NFL without a loss. That’s not too surprising on its own; what is surprising is that in contrast there is only one team without a win: the Detroit Lions. The Lions have been in this position quite a few times, having started the season with four or more consecutive losses four times since 2000. However it has been awhile, with the last instance occurring in 2010. With the amount of parity in the NFL, there should be no fear of the Lions going 0-16, like they infamously did in 2008. However, the fear of missing the postseason is on full tilt as a loss this week eliminates any chance of playing in January.

The Lions will have to hope for a reversal of fate as they take on a Cardinals team that has owned them for a decade. The last time the Lions defeated the Cardinals was week 10 of the 2005 season, when Joey Harrington threw three touchdown passes to Roy Williams to lead the Lions to a 29-21 victory. My first takeaway is that I feel old because I remember those Lions teams very well. My second takeaway is that I believe Larry Fitzgerald is the only player on either team that played in that game and will play in Sunday’s game. In that 2005 matchup, Fitzgerald had nine catches for 141 yards and a score so you would reasonably think that that Fitz continued to shred the Lions and the Cards ended up winning those games because they got better players around him. That is actually wrong. During the Cards six-game winning streak over the Lions, Fitzgerald has accounted for 22 catches, 228 yards and three touchdowns TOTAL. Fitz already has more catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns so far this season.

What’s really intriguing about this streak is that almost every win was memorable because of its timing. The first win, a 17-10 victory in 2006, gave Arizona its first win since week one, snapping an eight-game losing streak. That’s not even the longest losing streak the Cards snapped against the Lions, as they ended a nine-game losing streak in 2012 in what would be Arizona’s only win after starting the season 4-0. In 2009, a Cardinals win over the Lions coupled with a San Francisco 49ers loss in week 15 gave Arizona its second consecutive NFC West crown. The Cardinals victory over Detroit in 2013 marked Bruce Arians first win as Arizona’s head coach. Finally, the Cardinals victory last season came in the first game following Carson Palmer’s season-ending injury.

You can see by now how one would think that the Cardinals have owned the Lions. Despite most of the games being rather close, the Cards always got the win they needed. They need a win this week too so they can move on from their loss to St. Louis. However, Detroit needs it more. Will fate shine on the Lions or will the Cardinals continue to use them as their stepladder?

The Lions will need all the luck they can get as this matchup really favors the Cardinals. With the Cardinals recent history of having trouble covering tight ends and other big receiving targets, you would think that Calvin Johnson would give the Lions a big advantage. While Johnson has been effective (37 catches, 368 yards and two TDs in five games) he has never been able to score on the defense with the exception of 2013 when he scored both of his touchdowns. This year “Megatron” hasn’t looked like himself, having yet to top 100 receiving yards in a game despite averaging nearly 12 targets and having only one touchdown.

It’s not like those yards are transferring over to the run game either as the Lions have rushed for a total of 188 yards this season or 47 rushing yards per game. To put that in perspective, five teams have already rushed for more in a single game than the Lions have all season. That means even more pressure has been placed on Matthew Stafford, who has already throw 165 passes this season (second only to Ryan Tannehill’s 171) Stafford is on pace to throw 652 passes this season, which would mark the fifth consecutive year he has thrown over 600 passes. That is just one less season than if you added Tom Brady and Peyton Manning’s 600 pass seasons together and the only quarterback with more is Drew Brees with seven such seasons. For all those passes, the Lions barely rank in the top half of the league in passing yards (245.8 per game, good for 15th). They now face the eighth best defense against the pass in the Cardinals, who have allowed just a yard under 200 per game.

Unlike last week, the Lions don’t have the defense to slow down Arizona’s offense enough to keep them in the game. The Detroit defense is 23rd in passing yards allowed (271.5) and are the second worst team in the NFL when it comes to holding teams on third down (allowing opponents to convert 46% of the time). While the three turnovers helped the Rams get ahead of the Cardinals, it was allowing only two third down conversions in 11 attempts that won St. Louis the game. I don’t think the Lions can replicate that kind of success. Unfortunately they’ll need to in order to pull off the upset, end the losing streak and have any hope of turning this season around. That is going to take way too much luck for me to even consider picking the Lions, but you never know. Maybe this time things will finally go Detroit’s way.

Prediction: Arizona 30, Detroit 13

Other NFL Week 5 Predictions:

  • Indianapolis 23, Houston 16
  • Atlanta 27, Washington 17
  • Buffalo 28, Tennessee 20
  • Kansas City 31, Chicago 17
  • Cincinnati 23, Seattle 19
  • Baltimore 30, Cleveland 17
  • Philadelphia 28, New Orleans 24
  • Green Bay 34, St. Louis 10
  • Jacksonville 17, Tampa Bay 16
  • New England 33, Dallas 18
  • Denver 24, Oakland 14
  • New York Giants 34, San Francisco 17
  • Pittsburgh 24, San Diego 20

All In The Cards: Week 4

Welcome back a new edition of All In the Cards! This week the Cardinals high-flying offense faces its first formidable defense of the season in the St. Louis Rams. For whatever reason, the Rams play 10x better when they face a division opponent than when they face everyone else. This week I’ll go in-depth on how the Rams present a huge challenge and how the offense may have to change things up if they want to move to 4-0. 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 see how these two teams stack up against each other:

St. Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals

Last Meetings: W 31-14 vs. St. Louis (11/9/14) & W 12-6 @ St. Louis (12/11/14)

If there is one thing that I’m more passionate about than the Arizona Cardinals, it’s statistics. However, I’m pretty sure by now most of you have heard about Arizona’s historic offensive start to the season so I’m not going to delve much into the numbers. My only comment (because of course there had to be at least one) is that 126 points is a lot regardless of it being the first three games, the middle three games, or the last three games. In addition to the praise, it has also been noted many times that the Cardinals’ offensive explosion came against three of the worst defenses in the NFL. I’d question grouping the 49ers defense with the porous Bears and Saints defenses but I can concede that the San Francisco defense is much worse than it has been in awhile.

That’s what makes this game against the Rams so intriguing. There’s no doubting that the Cards have a great offense, but just how great is it? Is it really going to challenge single-season scoring records? (nope) Can it win games if the Cardinals defense is playing badly? (that is something we probably won’t find out for awhile) Can it face heavy defensive pressure and step up their game to overcome it? That last one is what we will find out this week.

The Rams defense is 11th in the NFL in points allowed, giving up 22.3 points a game. In addition, St. Louis is only giving up 202.3 passing yards a game, which is tied for seventh best. This will definitely be the first big test for a Cards offense that is first in scoring (42 points a game) and ninth in passing yards (266.3 yards per game).

However, the biggest test will be at the line of scrimmage where the Cardinals offensive line (league-low one sack allowed) battles a Rams defensive line that has 13 sacks already on the season, tied for second most. I don’t think I need to reiterate just how important keeping Carson Palmer healthy is to the Cardinals success. I also don’t think I need to remind people which defense put Ben Roethlisberger on the shelf for the next several weeks. However, it is worth mentioning that both Palmer and Drew Stanton went down last year against the Rams in separate games. I am well aware that Palmer’s injury was non-contact but it was how they attacked Stanton last season that makes me and every Cardinals fan nervous. Any time they had a chance to hit Stanton, they took it.

Let me state right here that I believe there is nothing wrong with that approach as long as the hits remain legal, which they were most of the time. However, recognizing that a defense is going to be aggressively attacking your quarterback puts a lot of pressure on your offensive play-calling. There will likely be less passes downfield so as to limit having Palmer stand around and get hit. Instead, I expect more screen passes and run plays (the Rams have given up 122.7 yards per game on the ground).

It will probably result in the Cardinals’ lowest point total of the season, but luckily the Cards won’t need to score a lot to beat the Rams. The Cardinals 47 points against the 49ers are only three less than the 50 points the Rams have scored all year. With the exception of an inspired performance against the Seahawks, new quarterback Nick Foles has been abysmal and the promising running game hasn’t been able to function thus putting even more pressure on Foles.

With that being said there are still two potential problems facing the Arizona defense: overconfidence in their own performance and the fact that the Rams play so much better against NFC West teams.

This Cardinals team has enough hardy veterans that the locker room should prevent a potential letdown game. The worry actually comes from the same secondary that jumped routes against the 49ers and ended up scoring multiple touchdowns. Tyrann Mathieu said after the game that he and the other defensive backs were able to recognize the 49ers play call right from the snap and thus were able to get in position to pick off the pass. This happened because the 49ers limited the offensive playbook to make Colin Kaepernick more comfortable. It also made them very predictable and thus ineffective. The problem here is that the Rams know that. Thus they could run a play they’ve run one way all season and run it another way to trick an overzealous defensive back and get a long touchdown on blown coverage. Here’s to hoping that the Cards secondary anticipate this and take fewer risks.

The Rams performance against NFC West teams is the one variable out of Arizona’s control and honestly the whole situation is hard for me to explain. There are so many statistical differences between the Rams team that faced the Seahawks and the Rams team that faced the Redskins and Steelers that you would swear they were two different teams. Of all the statistical differences, the one that stood out the most was third down conversion. The Rams converted 6 of 11 third downs against Seattle, and 4 of 22 third downs against the Steelers and Redskins. If the Cards can stop the Rams on third down and run the ball effectively, they’ll  have a great shot at reaching 4-0.

Prediction: Arizona 27, St. Louis 16

Fantasy Advice:

If you have Larry Fitzgerald, you might as well start him as the Rams are one of the few teams he has dominated throughout his career, even when he had bad quarterbacks. Coming into this season, Fitzgerald has hauled in 138 catches for 1,631 yards and 16 touchdowns against the Rams during his career. The catches and touchdowns are the most he has had against an opposing team while the receiving yards ranks second. If he’s truly back then bet on history repeating itself, even if he draws extra secondary attention. Now you might call me crazy, but the best play for the Rams this week is their Defense/Special Teams. Normally you wouldn’t start any defense against a historically-great scoring offense, but it’s about the intangibles. Expect at least one interception and/or fumble recovery and don’t be surprised if they’re able to rack up 3-5 sacks. That might not sound overwhelming but I just don’t see anyone on the Rams offense who would make a safer bet.

NFl Week 4 Predictions:

  • Baltimore 23, Pittsburgh 17: I wanted to give up on the Ravens but the matchup (Steelers on a short week and playing their first game without Ben Roethlisberger) was too good to pass up. I’ll give credit to Michael Vick, he did an adequate job filling in at quarterback. It’s hard for a quarterback who came in just a month ago to run an offense as intricate as Todd Haley’s scheme. However, there’s no doubt this game would have been too far out of reach for a Ravens comeback if Big Ben was on the field.
  • New York Jets 29, Miami 13: The Dolphins have been one of the biggest disappointments early in the season and I don’t see things getting much better. The Dolphins have given up 435 rushing yards so far this season so Chris Ivory, who should be back for this game, is poised for a big fantasy day.
  • Atlanta 26, Houston 16: Depending on your thoughts about the Eagles, this is possibly Atlanta’s first easy game of the season. Sure the Texans are coming off their first win of the season, but Atlanta finally has good professional football again and I expect the Georgia Dome to be rocking.
  • Buffalo 27, New York Giants 23: The fact that I think the Giants are by far the best team in the NFC East (at least as long as Tony Romo is out) should show how much I believe in this Bills team. It looks like Rex Ryan is still one of the best coaches in the NFL; he just needed a change of scenery.
  • Oakland 24, Chicago 10: As of the time I am writing this, I’m under the impression Jimmy Clausen will be the Bears starting quarterback. Even if Cutler plays I doubt he’ll be 100% and the Bears need him 100% to beat a feisty Raiders team that is finally starting to see progress under Jack Del Rio. Could be another big day for Derek Carr against a bad Bears secondary.
  • Cincinnati 24, Kansas City 20: The Bengals made a statement last week that they are still a threat in the AFC and I think they reinforce that with a win against the Chiefs. Also I think Kansas City still has a good team and time to turn things around from a 1-3 start. They’ve just had a tough schedule up to this point. They should be able to rebound during their next four games.
  • Indianapolis 38, Jacksonville 17: You finally got a win Indianapolis so that monkey is off your back. Now it is time to dominate an inferior opponent at home. I’m not asking you to put up 51 points on the Jaguars like the Patriots did, but you should come away from the game feeling like you had complete control.
  • Washington 23, Philadelphia 20: Despite the loss last Thursday against the Giants, I remain impressed by how competitive the Redskins have been so far this season. I literally have no other basis for this pick other than thinking Eagles will probably choke away this game in the fourth quarter.
  • Carolina 24, Tampa Bay 13: Normally having your next game be at Seattle would be a potential distraction from your current game, especially against the Buccaneers. However, the schedule-makers blessed the Panthers with a bye week between this game and the Seattle game so there shouldn’t be any distractions or looking ahead.
  • San Diego 27, Cleveland 17: I’ll be honest; I have no idea what to think of this matchup. The Browns in particular really confuse me and I have no idea what to expect from them. I know what I’m getting from Philip Rivers and the Chargers so I’ll side with consistency and pick the Chargers.
  • Denver 20, Minnesota 13: Is it too late to flex this game to Sunday night? This should be a really great game but with Peyton Manning starting to get his form back and the Broncos defense continuing to wreck havoc on opposing offenses, I’ll go with the home team.
  • Green Bay 38, San Francisco 13: Although they haven’t scored as many points as the Cardinals, even I have to concede that the best NFC offense goes to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. If Pittsburgh put up 43 points and Arizona put up 47 points against the 49ers defense, how many will the Packers score?
  • New Orleans 23, Dallas 17: I originally picked the Cowboys, but with signs indicating that Drew Brees will back I decided to switch. Even if he doesn’t start, Luke McCown wasn’t terrible in his place so the Saints have a good shot at this one with either quarterback.
  • Seattle 19, Detroit 13: While I wasn’t overly impressed by the Seahawks in their win against Chicago, I have been impressed by the Lions for the wrong reasons. Maybe if this wasn’t Monday night you could have talked me into the Seahawks looking ahead to their matchup with Cincinnati next week but I see no plausible way they lose this game.

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