In spite of being thrown by a Head Coaching change, the Denver Broncos will try to get back on the proverbial horse when they travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals this week. With their 3-9 record, a new coach and a road trip, a downtrodden Broncos bunch are looking for a fresh start. Also at 3-9, the Cards have seen their own troubles. They hold 4th place in the NFC West, a division they were atop only a year ago and are struggling with a leadership crisis.
Weather and Conditions
Sunday's game will be held at the University of Phoenix Stadium @ 2:15 PM MST. Broadcast nationally on CBS TV, Bill Macatee will be calling the game, while Rich Gannon does the color commentary.
University of Phoenix Stadium is a multipurpose football stadium located in Glendale, Arizona. It is the home of the Cardinals and the annual Fiesta Bowl. This venue features the first fully retractable natural grass playing surface built in the United States on top of an AirField Systems synthetic drainage system. An opening on one side of the stadium allows the playing field to move to the exterior of the building, allowing the entire natural turf to be exposed to daylight when it is not in use and also allowing the floor to be used for other purposes without damaging the playing surface. The "University of Phoenix" name is applied as a corporate sponsor, and not as the home stadium of the University (which has no intercollegiate athletics program).
The forecast for the game is:
|Precip: 0% Spectator Index: 10|
Wind Impact: LIGHT
For the current weather conditions, visit here.
Injuries and external factors
The quarterback situation in Arizona is a disaster. Regular starter Derek Anderson (concussion) has been cleared to play, but hasn't practiced and won't play on Sunday. Option number two, undrafted Rookie Max Hall, was placed on Injured Reserve with a dislocated shoulder. 3rd string Rookie John Skelton, saw his first league action last week and will likely be the 3rd Rookie starting QB the Broncos face this Sunday. The last choice would be Richard Bartel, who was released by the Washington Redskins in their last roster cuts. Signed Tuesday, Bartel had played this season for Sacramento of the United Football League.
CB Greg Toler (foot) will be active for the game. Michael Adams (shoulder) has done well in his absence and may keep the starting spot regardless.
Linebackers Clark Haggans (groin) and Joey Porter (knee), WR Steve Breaston (knee), DE Calais Campbell (ankle) and Kicker Jay Feely (Rt. groin) are Probable.
The Cardinal Offense is rather offensive. They rank near the bottom of the barrel in most categories. The Offense is 31st in points (16.7), 31st in Total yards (265.3), 30th in Passing yards (185.1) and 31st in Rushing with 80.2 yards per game. They are 26.5% (39/147)on 3rd down conversions. Arizona is (-10) in the Turnover department.
The Quarterback position has been a weak link for the Cardinals. Derek Anderson (169/327 for 2065 yds, a 51.7% Completion Rate, 7 TDs, 10 INT's, and a 65.9 QB Rating in 9 starts) has seen the majority of playing time, but hasn't done any better than his stint in Cleveland. Undrafted Rookie Max Hall (39/78 for 370 yds, a 50% CR, 1 TD, 6 INT's and a 35.7 QB Rating in 3 starts) has gotten the nod from Ken Whisenhunt and he has struggled as well before being injured in the 4th quarter last week. Rookie John Skelton (3/6 for 45 yds, a 50% CR, 0 TD, 0 INTs, and a 75.0 QB Rating) was thrown into action in that game and might be starting on Sunday. 2nd year QB Richard Bartel will be available as well.
Arizona's Running Backs are Tim Hightower (111 carries for 519 yds, a 4.7 avg, 3 TD's and 15 receptions for 116 yds), Beanie Wells (86 car, 307 yds, a 3.6 avg, 2 TD's and 4 rec, for 68 yds), LaRod Stephens-Howling (18 car, 94 yds, a 5.2 avg, 1 TD and 13 rec. for 98 yds) and Jason Wright. The Fullback is Reagan Maui'a (1 catch for 10 yds).
The Wide Receiver Corp is led by All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald (63 Rec, 789 yds and 5 TD's). Steve Breaston (39 Rec, 632 yds and 1 TD) works the other side of the field and is the team's biggest downfield threat. Early Doucet (23 Rec, 259 yds and 1 TD) is playing the 3rd receiver role but has done little this year. Stephen Williams (7 Rec, 75 yds), Rookie's Andre Roberts (14 Rec, 169 yds and 1 TD) and Max Komar (6 Rec, 60 yds) fill put the rest of this unit.
The Cardinal Tight Ends are Ben Patrick (15 Rec, 123 yds), Stephen Spach (5 Rec, 24 yds) and Rookie Jim Dray (3 Rec, 47 yds).
The O-Line consists of starters Levi Brown at Left Tackle, Alan Faneca at Left Guard, Lyle Sendlein at Center, Deuce Lutui at Right Guard and Jeremy Bridges at the Right Tackle spot. Ben Claxton is the backup Center, Rex Hadnot backs up the Guard position and recent Denver Bronco D'Anthony Batiste is the substitute at Tackle. This Unit has had problems keeping their Field General upright, having allowed 40 Sacks this season.
Defensively, the Cards rank 32nd in points against (28.2), 28th in Total yards against (386.8), 25th in Pass Defense (242.6) and 30th against the run (144.2). They have Sacked opposing quarterbacks 23 times and are allowing a 40.2% conversion rate (70/174) on 3rd down.
The Cardinals run a 3-4 Base Defense. The three starters on the Line are NT Bryan Robinson (12 TKL, 5 AST, 1 PD), LDE Alan Branch (22 TKL, 4 AST, 2.0 SK, 1 FF) and RDE Darnell Dockett (35 TKL, 7 AST, 2.0 SK, 1 FF). Rookie Dan Williams (20 TKL, 9 AST, 1 PD) and Gabe Watson (7 TKL) backup the Nose and and Calais Campbell (30 TKL, 11 AST, 4.0 SK, 2 PD) is in the rotation at End.
The Outside Linebackers are Clark Haggans (32 TKL, 6 AST, 3.0 SK, 1 FF, 2 PD), Joey Porter (34 TKL, 10 AST, 5.0 SK, 2 FF), Rookie O'Brien Schofield (4 TKL, 1 FF) and Cyril Obiozor (2 TKL). On the Inside are leading tackler Paris Lenon (69 TKL, 25 AST, 1 SK, 1 FF, 2 INT), Rookie Daryl Washington (43 TKL, 9 AST, 1 SK), Gerald Hayes (23 TKL, 10 AST, 1 PD) and Reggie Walker (3 TKL).
The Cornerbacks for Arizona are Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (35 TKL, 1 AST, 2 INT, 10 PD, 1 TD), Greg Toler (60 TKL, 6 AST, 1 SK, 2 FF, 8 PD, 1 INT), Michael Adams (35 TKL, 8 AST, 5 PD, 1 INT), Rookie A.J. Jefferson (1 TKL, 1 PD), Trumaine McBride (9 TKL, 3 AST, 1 PD) and Rookie Marshay Green. The starters at Safety are SS Adrian Wilson (54 TKL, 9 AST, 2.0 SK, 6 PD, 2 INT) and FS Free Safety Kerry Rhodes (63 TKL, 7 AST, 1 SK, 10 PD, 3 INT). Rashad Johnson (22 TKL, 11 AST, 3 PD, 1 INT), Matt Ware (5 TKL) and former Bronco Hamza Abdullah (3 AST) are the backups.
The Kicker for the Cardinals is Jay Feely. Jay is 15 for 16 (93.8%) on field goal attempts and a Long of 53 yards in 2010. his lone miss was from 54 yards. He is 21 for 21 on PAT's. Feely has kicked off 48 times, the average landing at the 3 yard line. He has 14 touchbacks and is 0/1 in Onside kicks. 33 of his kickoffs have been returned for an average of 24.7 yards.
Ben Graham is the Punter for Arizona. He has punted 69 times this season for an average of 43.9 yards per punt, with a net of 36.2. His longest punt was 65 yards. 20 have been downed inside the 20 yard line and 6 inside the 10, with 8 touchbacks and 13 fair caught. 28 of Graham's punts have been returned for 369 yards, a 13.2 average.
The Long Snapper is Mike Leach and the Holder is Ben Graham. Leach played for the Broncos from 2002 through 2008. He has 6 ST tackles, which is pretty good for the Long Snapper.
The Cardinals main Kick Returner is LaRod Stephens-Howling. LaRod has 50 kick returns, which is the most in the league. His 27.3 yard return average is 3rd in the league for KR's that have 40 or more. He is one of 4 players who have taken 2 all the way this year (96 and 102 yds). A third TD was nullified by a penalty. Steve Breaston has returned 7 kickoffs for a 23.1 yard average.
The primary Punt Returner is Andre Roberts, who has 21 returns for a 6.7 average with a long of 22 yards and 7 fair catches. Max Komar has returned 5 punts an average of 6.2 yards. Suffice to say, this is a weak area for Arizona.
The Special Teams standouts are Trumaine McBride with 8.5 tackles, Rashad Johnson (7), Jason Wright (6.5), Michael Adams (5), Reagan Maui'a, O.Schofield, and D.Washington each have 4 tackles.
Other ST highlights: Adrian Wilson blocked a FG vs. the Rams. Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie blocked a FG vs. the 49ers. LaRod Stephens-Howling recovered a muffed punt and Michael Adams recovered a fumbled kickoff and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota.
THE SEASON SO FAR
The Cardinals started the 2010 season with a 3-2 record. The two losses were on the road against Atlanta and San Diego. They triumphed over the Rams and Raiders and beat the defending champion New Orleans Saints at home 30-20. They had to be feeling pretty good going into their Bye in week 6. I'm sure they didn't visualize a seven game losing streak, but that's what happened.
It began with a 22-10 loss in Seattle, followed by a tough 38-35 duel with Tampa Bay. Max Hall threw 2 pick sixes and Derek Anderson tried to rally the troops from a 17 point deficit only to fall short by 3 points. A Week 9 match-up in the Metrodome took overtime to decide the contest, with the Vikings edging the Cards by 3. More losses at the hands of the Seahawks (36-18), the Chiefs (31-13),and the 49ers (27-6) brings us up to...
Hoping to break up a six-game losing trend the Cardinals stayed home to host the division rival Rams. Arizona took an early lead on a pair of Jay Feely field goals. St. Louis kicker Josh Brown hit 28, 52 and 20-yard field goals in response. The Rams followed that up with Steven Jackson's 27-yard TD run in the 3rd quarter and capping off with a 43-yard field goal by Josh
Brown. Rookie quarterback John Skelton made his NFL debut for Arizona in the 4th quarter after Derek Anderson was benched and backup Max Hall went out with a dislocated left shoulder.
Hall was hurt when he fumbled and recovered the ball. That brought on the strong-armed Skelton, a 6-foot-6 fifth-round draft pick out of Fordham. Skelton completed passes on a pair of 3rd-and-long circumstances for the only action for the Cardinal offense in the 2nd half. But his greenness showed when he missed a route adjustment and was called for intentional grounding. He also failed to adjust a protection. Combined, the Cardinal QB's completed 11 of 29 passes for 148 yards and 3 INT's, four sacks and a passer rating of 26.2.
One of the bright spots was Arizona's rush offense. They ran the ball 19 times for 105 yards and a 5.5-yard average. The outcome of the game would have been different had Ken Whisenhunt not abandoned it. The pass defense was average and the rushing defense did a decent job, limiting the Rams to 119 yards on 36 carries and allowing Jackson's touchdown.
The Broncos are 6-0 against the Cardinals Franchise after their move west from Missouri and 3-0 when the game is held in Arizona. In their last meeting, the Broncos prevailed, 37-20 on December 17, 2006.
The Cardinals are 6-1 at home against AFC teams in coach Ken Whisenhunt’s four seasons.
Las Vegas has the Broncos by 5.5 points.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Cards will have to run the ball and be conservative with a Rookie starting quarterback. It will be interesting to watch Arizona’s 31st-ranked rush offense go up against Denver’s 31st-ranked run defense.
Keep an eye on: Champ Bailey vs. Larry Fitzgerald. Two of the best going head to head should be something worth watching.
The Cards has suffered all season because of quarterback play. They've scored just one touchdown in their last three games, and that came on the final play of a blowout loss in Kansas City. In fact, they have lost those 3 games by an average of 19 points. They just haven't been competitive. Going 1 for 11 (9.1%) on 3rd downs just won't cut it in the NFL though and that happens to be another failure for the Redbirds.
The Cardinals are the only NFL team that hasn’t beaten Denver so let's hope the Broncos don't get lost in the desert.