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

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

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

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

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

Some Card Numbers:

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

How I Did With Week 2 Predictions:

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

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

All In The Cards Week 2

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

Arizona Cardinals @ Chicago Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Arizona 23, Chicago 16

Fantasy Advice:

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

Week 2 Predictions:

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