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: Recapping The Stupidly Crazy End To Arizona’s Win Over Green Bay

Anything can happen in the NFL playoffs. If someone ever questions that fact, show them the Green Bay-Arizona game from this past weekend. The amount of insane things that happened in that game still boggles my mind and the mind of many other football fans even a few days removed from watching the spectacle. So for part one of All In The Cards’ coverage of the Arizona Cardinals this week, I will go over every crazy situation, one by one, from the fourth quarter and overtime of Saturday night’s thriller. Prepare yourself for some strong opinions, especially about a certain coin toss. 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. Let’s go over the weirdest hour of sports I can remember:

Start of the 4th Quarter: Green Bay 13, Arizona 10

Palmer’s 2nd INT: This drive started late in the third quarter  and the first play was yet another reminder that the NFL desperately needs to properly define a catch. I personally think that four steps and a knee down should constitute a catch regardless of if the ball came out at the end. I know that in a similar situation last playoffs that Dez Bryant was called for an incompletion but the differing of calls only illustrates why this needs to be fixed, not that the call was wrong.

Now to the interception. While the pass was much shorter than it needed to be, the real cause behind this interception was the fact that Green Bay wasn’t afraid of Arizona running the ball. The play started as a play-action pass that immediately got snuffed out by a blitzing linebacker. It was a good risk considering the Cardinals only rushed for 40 yards on 19 rushing attempts. With the added pressure, Carson Palmer threw off his back foot and was unable to put enough behind his pass as Damarcus Randell incepted a pass that should have been out of his reach. Palmer had some bad throws Saturday night, but this one was a little more understandable. (Green Bay 13, Arizona 10 – 14:10 left)

The tip-drill, go-ahead score: This entire drive was a soap opera. The first play was a miscommunication between Palmer and Andre Ellington, not a great first pass after a back-breaking interception. What does Palmer do the next play? Throw a picture-perfect pass just above Packer linebacker Jake Ryan’s outstretched arms to John Brown. At this point we have now entered into “full gunslinger” mode for Palmer. Two plays later Larry Fitzgerald shakes two defenders and reaches out the ball for the first down marker and barely gets it by the narrowest of margins. Then during the Cardinals’ first play in the redzone, Palmer forces a pass to Michael Floyd that cornerback Sam Shields lets bounce off his hands. That pass was much worse than the endzone interception the previous drive and probably would have ended the game. Yet the game didn’t end as a pass between two defenders to David Johnson gets the Cardinals another first down, this time by an even smaller margin than Fitzgerald’s first down.

The true madness began the next play. Arizona ran a pick play with Jaron Brown to get Fitzgerald open on a slant route in the middle of the field. Yet despite Brown’s best (and probably illegal) effort, a defender was able to get an arm and break up the pass. However, instead of the pass falling to the ground, the ball jumped into the air only to land in Floyd’s hands in the back of the endzone. In the span of a second, it went from being a touchdown, to a probable interception, to a touchdown. At this point it seemed that the Cardinals uncharacteristically lucky season after decades of heartbreak would continue. (Arizona 17, Green Bay 13 – 3:44 left)

Arians passes on 2nd down: Then Bruce Arians’ aggressive approach backfired on him. I was really disappointed in the numerous amount of people who questioned Arians and said the pass was a dumb play call after praising him for doing the exact same thing earlier in the season and succeeding. Should he have run the ball? Of course he should have but this is who Arians is and the Cardinals and their fans know and accept Arians’ aggressive approach. Palmer completes that pass to Fitzgerald (or draws a pass interference call) and the game is over. As Arians says, “no risk it, no biscuit.” (Arizona 20, Green Bay 13 – 1:55 left)

Rodgers throws two Hail Marys: After the Cards finally got their first and only sack of the game, it looked like it was over at fourth and 20. Then Rodgers escapes to his left and, with Calais Campbell chasing him, throws a laser to Jeff Janis who was able to get behind the defense thanks to Rodgers extending the play. Then Rodgers decides not to spike the ball and runs another play which not only runs 20 seconds off the clock but an illegal shift by Richard Rodgers stops the clock and backs the Packers up five yards.

At this point Rodgers has two shots at the endzone. Both times, the Cardinals sent seven men on the blitz to hurry up Rodgers’ throw. The first time it worked perfectly as Rodgers kept backpedaling until he threw it away. However the second time Rodgers escaped to his left and threw up a beautiful pass to Janis for the game-tying touchdown. It should be noted that the reason Janis beat Patrick Peterson to the ball was because earlier in the drive Janis got behind the coverage and played deeper so it wouldn’t happen again. That backfired as Janis was able to get in front of the pass to complete the hail mary.

One thing that should be discussed is whether or not Mike McCarthy should have gone for the win with a two-point conversion instead of opting for the extra point to send the game to overtime. To me, the decision should be based on whether or not you believe in momentum. If you do, then you should go for the kill now immediately with the Cardinals still trying to get their head around the fact that the Packers just scored. If you don’t believe in momentum, then you go with the sure bet and go to overtime. There isn’t really a right or wrong decision; it just depends on your philosophy. (Arizona 20, Green Bay 20 – end of regulation)

The overtime coin toss: This may be the most stupid controversy I have ever seen and the fact that some people think that the coin flip prevented the Packers from winning is so asinine that it had me tearing my hair out just reading and listening to this.

First off, in the NFL rulebook it is not stated anywhere that the coin needs to flip on a coin toss. The referee Clete Blakeman was not obligated to do-over the coin toss but did do it because he thought the first toss wasn’t fair. I personally was okay with doing another toss, but the Packers shouldn’t have acted like it was their right to have a do-over. It was a nice gesture by Blakeman and with the Cardinals winning both tosses, the situation should have ended there.

Then Rodgers made his postgame statements. I met Rodgers for a short time back when he was Brett Favre’s backup and from what I can tell he is a good person. Honestly, I think his remarks after the game were just a result of him being frustrated the Packers lost. That being said, I blame him for making this a bigger controversy than it ever needed to be in the first place. He may have just been letting off steam but he needs to realize that he is one of the key players in the NFL and if he complains about something the masses will respond to that complaint.

Rodgers said after the game that he was upset he didn’t get to choose which side of the coin he wanted on the retry. Rodgers said he chooses which side to call based on which side is showing. On the first flip heads was showing so Rodgers called for tails. Since the coin didn’t flip it landed on heads. When Blakeman went for the second toss, he flipped the coin with tails showing. Because of that, Rodgers said he wanted to change his call to heads. The coin landed on heads again and the Cardinals won the toss again.

Some people think Rodgers should have been allowed to change his call but that’s ridiculous. He was already given a gift in the form of a second toss, so also asking to change your call sounds greedy. Also I’ve watched the whole exchange numerous times and I still don’t see how Rodgers could have had enough time to notice the coin being turned over, think about his coin toss ritual, and try to ask for the chance to change his mind. To me this sounds like hindsight bias, with Rodgers  trying to come up with an excuse for the Packers losing. Again it probably wasn’t intentional but he can’t make those kinds of statements.

Fitzgerald takes over: Then Fitzgerald made overtime end so quickly that now people are complaining that this set of overtime rules are unfair because Rodgers didn’t get a chance to go back on the field. If Rodgers wants to look for an excuse for why the Packers lost, he needs to look no further than his defense letting Fitzgerald turn a 15-yard pass into a 75-yard completion. Fitzgerald is very shifty but for him to get so wide open and then have four defenders fail to tackle him is a complete defensive breakdown. You can be disappointed Rodgers didn’t get a chance to respond, but don’t ask to change the rules because the Packers couldn’t stop the Cardinals from scoring a touchdown.

Fitzgerald ended the game two plays later on unique play design where Palmer ran what looked like an option run but instead threw a shovel pass to Fitzgerald. It capped possibly his greatest postseason performance and that is saying something. Look at his playoff game log:

  • 2008 Playoffs
    • vs. Atlanta – 6 receptions, 101 receiving yards, touchdown
    • at Carolina – 8 receptions, 166 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
    • vs Philadelphia – 9 receptions, 152 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns
    • vs Pittsburgh – 7 receptions, 127 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
  • 2009 Playoffs
    • vs Green Bay – 6 receptions, 82 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
    • at New Orleans – 6 receptions, 77 receiving yards
  • 2014 Playoffs
    • at Carolina – 3 receptions, 31 receiving yards
  • 2015 Playoffs
    • vs Green Bay – 8 receptions, 176 receiving yards, touchdown

His three games with 150+ receiving yards are already the most in NFL playoff history and he’s scored 10 receiving touchdowns in one fewer game than the great Jerry Rice, which is amazing considering two of those games were throwaways because of bad quarterbacks (three quarters of Matt Leinart vs Saints and a whole game with Ryan Lindley vs Panthers last year). Fitzgerald looks like a man on a mission and I don’t know if anyone can stop him.


How I Did With My Divisional Round Picks:

  • Arizona 34, Green Bay 20 (OT) (1-0 this weekend, 3-2 in playoffs)
  • New England 27 Kansas City 20 (2-0, 4-2)
  • Carolina 31, Seattle 24 (3-0, 5-2)
  • Denver 23, Pittsburgh 16 (4-0, 6-2)

Regular Season Record: 159-97 (.621)
Playoff Record: 6-2 (.750)
Total Record: 165-99 (.625)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In The Cards: Super Bowl Scenarios For All 12 Playoff Teams

The long, brutal NFL season came to an end for 20 teams this week but for 12 teams the season has just begun. In a one-and-done tournament anything can happen so it’s pointless to say that only these certain teams can make the Super Bowl because in reality all 12 of these teams proved they are good enough to win two or three games in a row. So for this week’s All In The Cards I’m going to list the best-case scenario for each team to make a run to the Super Bowl. 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. Before we get to the scenarios, here’s a look at how I did with my week 17 picks:

How I Did With My Week 17 NFL Predictions:

  • Seattle 36, Arizona 6 (0-1)
  • Buffalo 22, New York Jets 17 (0-2)
  • Miami 20, New England 10 (0-3)
  • Pittsburgh 28, Cleveland 12 (1-3)
  • New Orleans 20, Atlanta 17 (2-3)
  • Philadelphia 35, New York Giants 30 (2-4)
  • Indianapolis 30, Tennessee 24 (3-4)
  • Cincinnati 24, Baltimore 16 (4-4)
  • Houston 30, Jacksonville 6 (5-4)
  • Detroit 24, Chicago 20 (6-4)
  • Washington 34, Dallas 23 (7-4)
  • Carolina 38, Tampa Bay 10 (8-4)
  • Kansas City 23, Oakland 17 (8-5)
  • San Francisco 19, St. Louis 16 (8-6)
  • Denver 27, San Diego 20 (9-6)
  • Minnesota 20, Green Bay 13 (10-6)

Week 17 Record: 10-6
Season Record: 159-97 (.621)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2


Super Bowl Scenarios For All 12 Playoff Teams:

NFC

  1. Carolina Panthers: There are several ways the Panthers can make the Super Bowl but I’m looking specifically at the most optimal way. Well the most optimal way would be to avoid great vertical passing teams. While the Panthers do host a great secondary, the recent injury to Charles Tillman now means that half of the starting secondary is done for the season. Not to mention that since the loss of their other defensive back Bene Benwikere the Panthers have given up a lot more passing yards than normal. They still have Josh Norman but it would be better for this team if they avoided the Seahawks and the Cardinals and instead faced the Redskins and the Vikings over the next two rounds.
  2. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals were humbled last week by the Seahawks and should be focused against whoever they face in the playoffs. Having said that, the Cardinals would like to avoid the Vikings and Packers as both teams have extra motivation in the form of previous losses if they faced the Cards again. Instead, the Cards would probably want the Redskins. For the NFC Championship, I know the Cardinals want revenge against the Seahawks and want to have the game at home, but the better matchup is against Carolina. The Panthers may have homefield but they will be missing half of their secondary. Josh Norman may well be the best corner in the NFL, but not even he can cover Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown all at the same time.
  3. Minnesota Vikings: As a 3-seed, two-thirds of your playoff run have already been determined. The Vikings will need to defeat both the Seahawks and the Cardinals to advance to the NFC title game. In that game they would probably want to play at home so that leaves two options: the Packers and the Redskins. We’ve already seen the Packers come to Minnesota and it wasn’t pretty, plus the fact that the Packers would get this far means they have turned their offense around. Instead, the optimal matchup would be against a Redskins team that sometimes has trouble playing well away from home.
  4. Washington Redskins: It’s easy to find the Redskins’ best route to the Super Bowl as all they have to do is follow the same road that the 2008 Cardinals took for their only Super Bowl appearance. Both teams were 9-7 division winners stuck in the 4-seed and facing teams that were favored over them. The Redskins are more than capable of taking care of the Packers as long as Green Bay continues to play like it has during the second half of the season. Then the Redskins will need to catch the Cardinals napping and upset them in Arizona. That task will be harder considering the Cardinals will likely be very focused after getting annihilated right before the playoffs. Finally, despite the fact no one wants to face the Seahawks, the Redskins would favor that matchup for the sole reason of having another home playoff game, where Kirk Cousins has been at his best this year.
  5. Green Bay Packers: Like the Redskins, the Packers also have a blueprint for how to make a Super Bowl run but it will require Aaron Rodgers to perform on a 2011 Joe Flacco-level. After a win against the Redskins, the Packers will want to get revenge on the Cardinals and hope the team is still out of sorts from the Seattle loss. Then the Packers will want the Seahawks so they can host the game at Lambeau Field. It will be a difficult task to beat the Seahawks even at home but if Rodgers is playing like ’11 Flacco, he can lead Green Bay to another Super Bowl appearence.
  6. Seattle Seahawks: Unfortunately for the Seahawks, a trip to their third straight Super Bowl requires a win over the Panthers at Carolina after taking care of the Vikings. That leaves us with three potential teams for Seattle to face in the NFC Championship. While the Cardinals, Packers, and Redskins all play very well at home, only at one of those places does the Seahawks also play very well in and that’s University of Phoenix Stadium. Even though the Cardinals will likely be out for blood after the Seahawks destroyed them during week 17, the Seahawks need to play at a place they are comfortable in after playing two other tough road games.

AFC 

  1. Denver Broncos: Looks like Peyton Manning is back at QB for the Broncos, but even if Brock Osweiler returns under center the Broncos will only go as far as their running game and their defense. Both the Steelers and the Chiefs have beaten the Broncos during the season and can do it again in the playoffs so the favorable first matchup would be against the Texans. Despite Houston’s improved quarterback play, I’d still take the Broncos defense 10 out of 10 times in that matchup and a heavy dose of the run game means fewer dropbacks where J.J. Watt can obliterate whoever is playing quarterback. In this scenario Denver would either face the Patriots or the Bengals and even though the Broncos have already beaten both of them I think they’d rather not have to go against Tom Brady again, especially considering Brady’s history over Manning in the playoffs. The Bengals, with a less than 100% Andy Dalton would be the slightly easier path to the Super Bowl.
  2. New England Patriots: Everything will depend on how healthy Julian Edelman and any other returning starter really are when they suit up in two weeks and whether or not they are rusty. If they are fine then it won’t matter who the Patriots face. However if they aren’t, things get a lot more difficult. At that point all five AFC teams would give the Patriots trouble so the best-case scenario would call on New England to win psychological matchups against teams and players who seem to fold in high-pressure situations. Andy Dalton would usually be the poster boy for this kind of situation but the Bengals’ main demon is winning a playoff game and they’d accomplish just that if they would eventually face the Patriots. So instead, the psychological matchup would be against Andy Reid, Alex Smith, and the Chiefs. That would leave a psychological matchup with Peyton Manning, Gary Kubiack, and the Broncos as the favorable AFC Championship opponent.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals: As I previously stated with Minnesota, there’s not much wiggle room for teams with the 3-seed. The Bengals already know they will need to beat the boom-or-bust Steelers and then they’ll have to beat the Patriots. Anything can happen with the Steelers so a little bit of luck will be needed to get past them but they’ll either need a 100% Andy Dalton or a rusty Patriots group to advance to the AFC Championship. In the AFC title game, they would love to face the Texans as one of that defense’s only weaknesses is the play-action pass and even at 80% Dalton is still one of the best play-action passers in the NFL.
  4. Houston Texans: Beating the red-hot Chiefs will be tough but after that the road to the Super Bowl isn’t that far-fetched of a possibility. You have to think that J.J. Watt would be licking his chops to get an opportunity to attack a patchwork Patriots offensive line in the next round. No one wishes to face the Patriots, but with many of their key contributors just coming back from injury it would be easiest to get them early when those players may still be rusty. From there the best matchup would be the turnover-prone Broncos, especially if Peyton Manning  is playing quarterback.
  5. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs may have the longer winning streak, but the Texans are playing better as of late. It will be a tough task for the Chiefs to advance but they are more than capable of winning this game. As I’ve already stated in other sections, you never wish to face the Patriots but if you’re going to face them, do so in the divisional round when the injured players may not be all the way back. While a rubber match with the Broncos would be an advantage for the Chiefs, an even bigger advantage would be having a home playoff game, which only happens if they face the Steelers.
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers will have the benefit of likely facing an Andy Dalton-less Bengals for their first game. From there the Steelers would have to face the Broncos, who the Steelers beat just a couple of weeks ago and would likely face Peyton Manning in a bad weather game, which always favors Pittsburgh. Then in the AFC Championship, the best best to advance to the Super Bowl would be drawing the Texans because unlike the Chiefs and Patriots, the Texans are more susceptible to turnovers, which the Steelers’ defense needs to thrive.

*Big shout out to Bill Barnwell’s article for helping me determine some of the best paths for teams to take.

All In The Cards: Avoiding The Trap Game (Week 8)

Welcome back a new edition of All In the Cards! This week the Cardinals face a potential trap game against the Cleveland Browns with a bye next week and a Sunday night matchup against Seattle the week after. Can the Cards stay focused and take care of business against the Browns? I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for my in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s see how these two teams stack up against each other:

Arizona Cardinals @ Cleveland Browns

Last Meeting: W 20-17 OT vs. Cleveland (12/18/11)

After their game this week against the Cleveland Browns, the Arizona Cardinals will have completed half of their 2015 regular season and will take a much deserved bye week. Despite a few hiccups against the St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate what the Cards have already accomplished as well as plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the second half of their season. Even though the NFL is currently boasting a record five undefeated teams heading into week eight, only the two-loss Cardinals have both a top five offense and a top five defense. This isn’t me being subjective; Football Outsiders’ well-acclaimed DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) has the Cardinals as the third best offensive team and the fourth best defensive team. Here is a link to Football Outsiders’ DVOA Rankings to see every team but let’s compare the Cards to the five undefeated teams:

  • Arizona Cardinals: 3rd in Offensive DVOA, 4th in Defensive DVOA
  • New England Patriots: 2nd in Offensive DVOA, 11th in Defensive DVOA
  • Green Bay Packers: 4th in Offensive DVOA, 7th in Defensive DVOA
  • Cincinnati Bengals: 1st in Offensive DVOA, 13th in Defensive DVOA
  • Carolina Panthers: 9th in Offensive DVOA, 6th in Defensive DVOA
  • Denver Broncos: 32nd in Offensive DVOA, 1st in Defensive DVOA

First thing I want to note is that only two of the five remaining undefeated teams have both a top ten offense and a top ten defense (though I should mention that all of this was calculated before the start of week eight, thus the Patriots’ ranking doesn’t include their performance last night against the Dolphins. They will probably be in the top ten defensively next week.) and the team closest to having top five on both sides of the ball (Green Bay) ranks lower than Arizona on both sides.

However, there is a reason the Cardinals have two losses: they rank an abysmal 21st in Special Teams DVOA. You don’t have to search very long to find an occurrence where the Cardinals’ special teams almost let them down. Just this past Monday, the Arizona special teams single-handily let Baltimore make a huge fourth quarter comeback thanks to a missed extra point (which kept it a two-score game instead of making it a three-score game) and then failing to pick up the blitz on a punt block that gave the Ravens the ball on the one-yard line. The Cards were able to salvage a win but that wasn’t the case against the Rams. David Johnson fumbled the opening kickoff and the Rams took possession of the ball in the Arizona redzone. From the 13-minute mark of the first quarter, the Rams took the lead and never let it go.

So why bring up special teams right now? Almost every statistical measure says the Cardinals should obliterate the Browns this week and while that will probably happen, there is one stat that gives the Browns some hope. While the Cards rank 21st in Special Teams DVOA, the Browns rank 3rd, easily the strength of the team. I’ve mentioned a few times that the Cards struggle when they don’t create turnovers, and if that happens this Sunday we are only one bad Drew Butler punt away from Travis Benjamin scoring his second punt return touchdown of the season and giving the Browns all the momentum and potentially the lead.

What the Cardinals have this week is a bona fide trap game. By definition, a trap game is “when a team faces an opponent they are expected to beat and thus they look past their current game and start preparing for the next game, which is usually against a bitter rival or a very strong team.” While there is a bye week between this game and the next one for the Cards, that next game is against the two-time defending NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. You can’t find a better example of a trap game!

Does this mean the Cardinals are doomed? While the Cardinals do seem to rely on emotions more than regular NFL teams (like needing to prove to themselves they could win close games), the Cards are led by a ton of veterans who have been in this situation before and thus would be able to identify if they felt the team was relaxing and then promptly let the team know. Plus, as weird as this might sound, it helps that this team has already lost twice this season.

There’s a common saying when a team going for an undefeated season gets its first loss: “It’s better that they lost now so they can learn from their mistakes and not lose in the playoffs.” While this statement is usually nothing more than fans and media trying to cope with the fact that a team can no longer go undefeated, getting a few losses does benefit a team if they aren’t accustomed to always being the favorite. Teams who are accustomed to winning, like New England and Green Bay, gain nothing from a loss, but teams not accustomed to winning, like the Cardinals, can find positives in losses.

The Cardinals just recently transformed from the underdog to being the favorite, and for a team that built itself on being the underdog this is new territory. Opposing teams are now counter-gameplanning you, with the hope that a win could jumpstart their own transformation to becoming a favorite. It takes awhile for teams to adjust to this switch and that usually leads to upsets.

Teams in the Cardinals position can take these losses one of two ways: either the loss humbles them and reminds them of how they got to this position in the first place, or the loss spreads doubt among the players and coaches which leads to the team ultimately collapsing. If the Cardinals really are title contenders they will take those losses to heart and remember never to overlook a team like the Browns, because just a few years ago the Cards were in the Browns position. I think the Cardinals are title contenders so I don’t see them falling in this trap game.

Prediction: Arizona 31, Cleveland 10

My other Week 8 NFL Predictions:

  • New England 27, Miami 14
  • Kansas City 23, Detroit 14
  • Atlanta 31, Tampa Bay 23
  • Minnesota 26, Chicago 13
  • Pittsburgh 30, Cincinnati 27 (OT)
  • Houston 23, Tennessee 17
  • St. Louis 27, San Francisco 10
  • New York Giants 28, New Orleans 27
  • Baltimore 34, San Diego 30
  • New York Jets 23, Oakland 13
  • Seattle 27, Dallas 17
  • Green Bay 24, Denver 13
  • Carolina 27, Indianapolis 23

Week 7 Record: 9-5
Week 8 Record: 1-0
Season Record: 70-36 (.660)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In The Cards: Week 7 Recap

Welcome to the Week 7 NFL recap of All In the Cards! I’m still feeling the aftereffects of those final five minutes during the Cardinals-Ravens game so this week’s recap will be a little shorter than usual. Look out for my week eight preview on Friday and the return of Hoosiers In The NBA every Monday!. 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 on the Arizona Cardinals. Without further ado, let’s see how I did with my week seven predictions:

How I did on my Week 7 Predictions:

  • Arizona 26, Baltimore 18: Looks like the Cardinals finally won a close game. Of course, the game never needed to be that close. Nevertheless, a good psychological win for the Cards. Through seven weeks I think we know who the Cards are: an explosive offense, an elite defense, and a very shaky special teams unit. Arizona has the offense and defense to make the Super Bowl and win it, but if they don’t it will most likely be the special teams fault. Also the Ravens may be the best 1-6 team in NFL history. (1-0)
  • Seattle20, San Francisco 3: The Seahawks took care of the 49ers easily and seem to be back on track. However, that still doesn’t change the fact that they are two games behind the Cards in the NFC west. Seattle has Dallas and then a bye before its first matchup with Arizona. That will be the game that tells us whether or not the Seahawks are still contenders. (1-1)
  • Jacksonville 34, Buffalo 31: I’d like to thank the Jaguars for always making me look silly when I pick their games. Other than the New England blowout, I think I have been wrong every time I have analyzed Jacksonville (I may not have gotten the pick wrong but it never goes how I thought the game would go). Huge win for an organization that is trying to use this season as a launch pad for a potential breakout 2016 season. On the other side, it seems the Bills have the same injury bug the Cardinals had last season. (1-2)
  • Atlanta 10, Tennessee 7: I’m still trying to figure out why this game was so close. It seems the Atlanta offense doesn’t play with urgency in the fourth quarter unless its trailing The Falcons outscore their opponents in the fourth quarter 55-19 when they come into period trailing. However, when they have the lead going into the final period the Falcons are outscored 28-6. This tells me that what the Falcons have been doing to other teams (fourth quarter comebacks) could happen against them if they continue this trend. (2-2)
  • St. Louis 24, Cleveland 6: Todd Gurley may become the best back in the NFL as soon as next season. He has given life to the Rams’ offense and by extension the Rams’ defense as they can put that front seven to good use against trailing opponents. This is the Rams team the organization has been hoping for, and the Rams team that the other NFC West teams have been dreading to see. (3-2)
  • Minnesota 28, Detroit 19: When I saw Stefon Diggs tear apart the IU defense last year as a Maryland Terrapin, I had a feeling he would make a good pro. I just never envisioned he would be this good and so quickly at that. His 19 catches for 324 yards through his first three games can only be topped by Anquan Boldin (23 catches for 378 yards in 2003 with the Cardinals) in the past 50 years. If Diggs really is going to be as good as Anquan Boldin, the Vikings could be Super Bowl contenders as quickly as next season. (4-2)
  • New Orleans 27, Indianapolis 21: So much for any momentum after a close loss to the Patriots. Just because you have the ability to come back from being down 27-0 doesn’t mean you should make that a regular occurrence. The Colts defense can only do so much, so when the offense turns the ball over three times in the first half (with 13 of the Saints’ points scored off those turnovers), you can’t expect to win games. Now they have undefeated Carolina next. Thank goodness the Colts play in the AFC South. (4-3)
  • Kansas City 23, Pittsburgh 13: Part of what made Landry Jones so effective against the Cardinals is that the defense Jones was facing had gameplaned completely for Michael Vick. Against a defense that has a gameplan for Jones, the Steelers were unable to get anything going as the Chiefs got a much needed win. Good news for Pittsburgh is that they get Ben Roethlisberger back. Bad news is they face the undefeated Bengals in what has become a must-win if the Steelers want to win the AFC North. (4-4)
  • Miami 44, Houston 26: U-G-L-Y! That is the only way you can describe that first half for the Texans. I mean give credit to the Dolphins (first team in 75 years to have four touchdowns of over 50 yards in a single half) but the Texans defense, the supposed strength of the team, looked downright pitiful. I’m a little worried that the Dolphins are riding too much of a high and that they will get a big wake-up call Thursday against New England. (5-4)
  • New England 30, New York Jets 23: This game definitely lived up to all the hype. Any Patriots’ fan dreaming of another 16-0 regular season should be very afraid of the week 16 rematch at MetLife Stadium. Even though they lost in the second half (when Todd Bowles usually shines as a coach), I still walk away from this game believing the Jets are a legit playoff team. (6-4)
  • Washington 31, Tampa Bay 30: The Redskins’ franchise-record 24-point comeback was very impressive but when looking at the state of the two teams the outcome was actually kind of predictable, at least a little bit. The Redskins have been an up-and-down team all season so it’s no surprise they got in a big whole and then proceeded to climb out of it. Meanwhile the Buccaneers looked like a young team that was not used to holding a lead and thus made the mistakes necessary for the Redskins to win. (7-4)
  • Oakland 37, San Diego 29: I called this game perfectly. Don’t let the score fool you: the Raiders annihilated the Chargers. If anything, the Chargers’ 23 points in the fourth quarter just further demonstrates how much pressure the Chargers put on Philip Rivers to win games. Rivers throws two interceptions in the first half and the Chargers trail 30-6 at the break. Sure Rivers made a couple of mistakes but Rivers didn’t give up 30 points in the first half. (8-4)
  • New York Giants 27, Dallas 20: First I need to give some credit to the Cowboys for finally showing some life in the midst of a four-game losing streak and after being obliterated by the Patriots in their last game. In fact they would have won this game had they not turned the ball over four times. The Giants meanwhile bounce back from their embarrassing performance against the Eagles. (9-4)
  • Carolina 27, Philadelphia 16: The Panthers kind of remind me of the last two Seahawks teams, matching a run-oriented offense led by a mobile quarterback with a ferocious defense that always makes teams pay I still think they will get their first loss sometime in the next two weeks (they face the Colts and Packers) but I think it is time we consider the Panthers as a legit contender. (9-5)

Week 7 Record: 9-5
Season Record: 69-36 (.657)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

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: 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.