Tag:Arizona Cardinals
Posted on: January 17, 2009 11:14 pm

Super Bowl Storylines and Picks

Thanks to my terrible internet connection, I'm writing this a little later than I wanted, but at least it's up for Sunday. I said yesterday that I was going to take a look at some of the potential story lines from the potential Super Bowl games. Here's what I came up with...

Cardinals-Steelers - Couldn't think of anything catchy for this one. Sorry, not feeling the creative juices today. But I still think this game could be a good one. The pass happy Cards going up against the high octane defense of the Steelers. Maybe a sleeper shootout game with both teams scoring 24-30 points.

Ravens-Cardinals - "The Underdog Bowl" / "The Rookie vs. The Wily Vet"

Both teams here are underdogs going into this weekend and most people are thinking that this game doesn't have a prayer. I am not one of those people, but as an Eagles fan, I'm not praying for it obviously. Rookie QB is going up against former NFL MVP and Super Bowl Champ Kurt Warner as the Ravens make their first SB appearance since 2000 and the Cards make their first SB appearance ever. I think.

Eagles-Ravens - "The Redemption Bowl" / "Backyard Bird Brawl"

As everyone knows by now, Donovan McNabb was benched after the first half of the previous Eagles-Ravens game. And now a few people think that it would be great if the Eagles had another shot at the Ravens (instead of playing the Steelers, who they've already beaten this season). Either way, this game should be entertaining to say the least, and the over-under for big secondary hits is about 20. And I'm taking the over.

- "The Keystone Bowl" / "Steelheads vs. Steakheads"

My favorite story line about this bowl is something that I wrote on Thursday involving PA Gov. Ed Rendell. This would be the 3rd* bowl that would feature two teams from the same state (and we use the term state losely). One was the 49ers and Chargers and the other was the Bills and NY Giants, who actually play in NJ, but whatever. One of my Steeler friends mentioned that you cook steak on steel grills, and since Philly loves cheesesteaks, well you get the idea. I should also mention the idea of CBS community member Pirateball who commented on a previous blog of mine that this game should take place in State College, PA at Happy Valley, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions. JoePa should be the honorary coin-flipper at the captain's meeting (along with Gov. Rendell). This would be sold out faster than the Cardinals - Falcons Eagles game.

Oh, and two more bonus storylines for Sunday's games.
Did you know that the Pittsburgh mayor changed his name from Ravenstahl to Steelerstahl?
And, that Donovan McNabb and Cards coach Ken Wisenhunt are neighbors?

Oh, yeah, I'm supposed to include my picks for these games, too.

Ravens vs. Steelers

I wouldn't be surprised to see either team win this game, but I am very wary of the fact that the Ravens gave up 400 yards of offense to the Tennessee Titans last week. I understand that the Ravens have a big play defense, but at some point, your offense needs to start producing on it's own, and I think that Joe Flacco is still a year away from that happening. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers won't have an easy time in beating the Ravens for the third time this year, but I feel more comfortable with the Steelers right now. PICK: Steelers

Eagles vs. Cardinals

I said the Eagles would have lost to the Panthers, because the scare me to death, but the Cardinals took care of that problem for me. The Eagles understand that the 48-20 whooping they put on Arizona on Thanksgiving means nothing, because both teams have improved since then. But the key for this late season run by the Eagles has been the loose and fun-loving mentality that Donovan McNabb and the Eagles have shown lately. I have always believed that Philadelphia plays its best football when they are loose and they certainly are right now. Why else would Donovan McNabb have asked the Giants phone company to book a flight to Arizona last week? PICK: Eagles

Yup, I am gunning for the all-Keystone state Super Bowl. Now, you might be wondering, where is my Super Bowl prediction? You've predicted every upcoming round also, Eagle, why stop now? Why? Because I've cursed two separate teams in back to back weeks. Maybe Carolina was intentional, maybe I was reverse-jinxing the Panthers, you'll never know. But I'm done with Super Bowl Predictions for the year. There's too much on the line and I am a very superstitious fan. I will not tempt the football Gods twice in one postseason (three if you count Week 17 and the Eagles making the playoffs.

Until my recap, enjoy the conference championship games.
Posted on: January 16, 2009 11:36 am
Edited on: January 16, 2009 11:39 am

NFL Conference Championship Preview

Welcome back to the CBS Community's #1 user preview (I'm assuming my Wild Card edition is still carrying that slogan). We're down to the Final Four in the NFL Playoffs and it's a conference championship weekend that is screaming upsets, because well, that's what we've had the past two weeks, why not a third? Both 6 seeds are still standing, Philadelphia and Baltimore, as they travel to Arizona and Pittsburgh respectively for their games. It would be hard to consider any of these games upsets now, but the favorites are the two Pennsylvania teams.

NFC Championship
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Arizona Cardinals - Sunday 1/18, 3:00 PM, FOX

The Arizona Cardinals are probably the surprise team in these two contests after dominating a Carolina team and earning a home game for the NFC Championship. The Cardinals have been leaning on Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald and a resurgent Edgerrin James on offense and a young defense that has stepped up for the postseason. That defense has had 9 takeaways so far in the playoffs, including 6 last week against the Panthers. The injury key for the Cards is whether or not WR Anquan Boldin will be ready to go for this weekend, and it appears that he will be playing.

The Eagles are no strangers to the NFC Championship game, this is their 5th in 8 years and also the 5th in the 10 years of Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid's tenure in Philadelphia. While the Eagles have only been to one Super Bowl, their consistency over the years has been nothing short of spectacular. The Eagles appear to be a little more banged up than usual, with RB Brian Westbrook, CB Asante Samuel and several others missing practice time, although everyone should be active for the game on Sunday.

The key to stopping Arizona will be to disrupt its passing game. There are generally two ways of doing this: blitzing the quarterback and double teaming the other team's best receiver. I have a feeling that Eagles DC Jim Johnson will be doing plenty of both. Larry Fitzgerald has been outstanding so far in the postseason, but now must get through a dangerous Eagles secondary. It remains to be seen if the Cards will also stick to their new found running game, with James and Hightower getting the bulk of the carries.

Normally, the key to stopping the Eagles would be to contain Brian Westbrook, who hasn't had a very productive postseason, with the exception of his 71-yard touchdown catch and run screen against the Vikings. That means the Cardinals defense will have to put pressure and disrupt Donovan McNabb, which is no easy task. The Eagles will move the ball in their standard offense, some runs and passing the ball to everyone who is eligible.

AFC Championship
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers - Sunday 1/18, 6:30 PM, CBS

The Pittsburgh Steelers, the highest remaining seed left in the postseason, are the only team that has so far played one game and the only home team last week that won a game. They were efficient at moving the football against the Chargers and held the ball for basically the entire third quarter in last week's win over San Diego. Big Ben Roethlisberger seemed to have no ill effects from the concussion he sustained in Week 17. Willie Parker had a tremendous game on the ground last week as well.

The Ravens might be a 6 seed, but they sure don't play like one. This game will feature the two of the AFC's and the NFL's best defenses. The Ravens used several key red zone turnovers last week to propel them over the Titans. The Ravens will need another big day from Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Co. as they try to make life easier for Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense.

Generally, when these teams play, it comes down to a defensive struggle. So I look to the offenses to key the games. Roethlisberger had a solid day passing against the Chargers last week, and he may need to have another one this week. Willie Parker has generally struggled against the Raven D, which is nothing to be ashamed of. But Parker will need to help the offense control the ball against the Ravens and limit turnovers to avoid the same mistakes the Titans made.

The Ravens offense will need to step up this weekend. They played conservatively in my opinion last week and it could have cost them against the Titans. Joe Flacco will have to move the ball through the air at times and we'll see if he's up to the challenge. He hasn't been phased by anything all year. And the Ravens can't be content to let the defense win this game for them, they need to put up points, probably 20 or more to have a good chance of winning this game.

Well, there's the preview. I'll have my picks/story lines entry tomorrow, highlighting what intriguing story lines there are for each potential Super Bowl Matchup. Thanks for reading and as always, feedback is encouraged. Thanks for reading.

- Eagle
Posted on: January 15, 2009 1:35 pm

Conference Championship Botherings

As we head into the conference championship games, there are a few things that are, well, bothering me. You see I have noticed several things about each of the remaining four NFL teams that are meeting to go to the Super Bowl this weekend. A few of these things I find important and a few could easily not matter this weekend. But I feel that if something is eating you on the inside, you should tell someone. So I'm going to bother everyone by writing a blog about the things that bother me about this weekends games.

Baltimore Ravens

1. Defense - Okay, I know the defense is good. It's really good. But they did just give up a ton of yards to the Tennessee Titans last week and were bailed out by several huge turnovers. If this team has any chance of winning, that can't happen this week against the Steelers. The defense will have to come up with several big plays again, as they have done all postseason, but the question remains, can this defense keep producing?

2. Joe Flacco - For the record, I like Flacco. I like Delaware, used to live there years ago. But I don't think Flacco is ready to win big postseason games yet on his own. He is truly a game-manager QB, and there's nothing wrong with that. But against the Steelers, he's going to have to make some big plays, like the throw he made to Derek Mason against Tennessee. Here's what doesn't bother me about Flacco, the guy rarely makes mistakes that lose games. But he needs help to make the winning plays right now and that's why Ed Reed and Co. are playing the other side of the ball.

Pittsburgh Steelers

1. Ball Control - The Steelers held the Chargers to this stat-line in the 3rd quarter last week: 0:17 seconds of possession, 1 offensive play, 1 interception. That is success so outstanding that it can't be duplicated. Here's why that bothers me, San Diego, which as a solid offense led by Philip Rivers, was able to move the ball on the Steelers. If the Chargers had a few more possession in that 3rd quarter, that game could have turned out differently. I don't expect the Steelers to have that extreme of a success against the Ravens.

2. Special Teams - The Steelers had a key punt return by Santonio Holmes in the first quarter to tie the game. It was the first Steelers punt return for a TD all year if I recall, and that's something that I wouldn't bank on for next week. The Steelers do not live and die by the big play, but this was a key moment in the game. If Pittsburgh has a good day in the return game, that will mean a shorter field for their ball control offense.

Arizona Cardinals

1. Turnovers - You aren't getting 6 turnovers from Jake Delhomme and the Panthers, or Donovan McNabb and the Eagles, or anyone. That is a career bad game that almost never happens in the NFL, and certainly not in the postseason. The Cardinals were more or less handed that game. That will not happen this weekend. The Cardinals defense has stepped up lately and they aren't the same team that lost to the Eagles 48-20 on Thanksgiving.

2. Running Game - I know Edge James has had a mini-resurgence, but he hasn't been spectacular. The Cards are definitely a pass first team, but they aren't one-dimensional either. But this balanced offense might rest on the health of...

3. Anquan Boldin - If he's healthy, it bothers me for the Eagles, if not it bothers me for the Cardinals. Listen, there is no way to completely shut down both Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, and I'm betting the Eagles will be trying to stop Fitzgerald, who had been making ridiculous catches through two defenders anyway, but that's not the point. I truly believe that Arizona needs Boldin to win this game because he adds that extra wrinkle that Jim Johnson and the Eagles defense has to account for. Speaking of the Eagles...

Philadelphia Eagles

1. Brian Westbrook - Not because he's injuried (he's always listed on the report), but his production. It bothers me in two ways, the fact that this could continue and the Eagles will have to win again with out Westbrook gaining a ton of yards (i.e. good for the Cardinals) OR the fact that he could break out and have a ridiculous game (i.e. good for the Eagles).

2. Asante Samuel - He's had two picks this postseason, one for a TD against Minnesota (the play where Tavaris Jackson gets "jacked up" by Chris Clemmons) and one that set up a 1-YD TD sneak by Donovan McNabb against the Giants. Basically, he's averaging a TD a week. This could continue, someone else could pick up the slack, or it could not continue. Again, Arizona will throw the ball and with two excellent WR's to cover, it could be a long day for the Eagles secondary.

3. Offense - The Eagles offense almost seems content to just moving the ball late in games, but don't have the killer instinct to put away games like against Minnesota. They're going to have to score early and often to keep the big-play Arizona receivers from staging a late game comeback. The Eagles were solid on third downs last week, converting several third and longs against New York, but it would be nice to have some shorter conversions.

4. Correll Buckhalter - Let the man run the ball a little. Westbrook is a more dangerous all around playmaker, but Buckhalter might be the better pure runner out of the backfield. Give him 10 carries or so and I'll be a happy man. He's a good complement to Westbrook and could help wear down a surging Arizona defensive line. He had a 27 yard run or so against the Giants and then I don't remember him getting a lot of touches.

Okay, this last one doesn't bother me in particular, but it should bother Cardinals fans. Have you seen Donovan McNabb on the sidelines? He's got that goofy, lopsided grin on his face to go along with those playoff beards. I've seen that look before. That means the he, and the Eagles team, are loose and confident. They're having fun. Why else would McNabb attempt to run back a pass he caught on the sidelines at the end of the Vikings game or answer a telephone on the Giants sideline? I've always thought the Eagles are playing their best when they're loose and goofing off a little, and they're playing really well right now...

All right, no more rambling or the word bother anymore. Playoff preview tomorrow and my picks Saturday. Check out my previous entry on what Gov. Ed Rendell will do if there's an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl, really good story there. Thanks for reading.

- Eagle
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com