In less then six hours, the Arizona Cardinals will enter their eleventh game of the season and it's a doozy. Their division enemy -- the San Francisco 49ers -- will be in town to face off on Monday night. Although their records don't show it, this has the makings of an intense battle at University of Phoenix Stadium. Both teams dislike each other, both teams verbally claimed the division-crown long before this year began, and both teams dislike each other some more. Here are my three keys to success:
Convert third downs - Not long ago I posted a story illustrating the faults of the Cardinals this season. The big daddy of them all was the Cardinals poor production on third down. They are currently ranked 31st in the league with a 28.8% rating on third down. Simply putting it -- they are not getting it done. Converting third downs means moving the ball when you desperately need to, and putting yourself in prime scoring position. The 49ers are the leagues twelfth-best third down defense, holding opponents to a 36.8% rating. The stats aren't on the Cardinals side in this match up, but when are they ever? Convert on third down tonight and the chances of winning are highly increased.
Cut down on penalties - The good thing about penalties are that they are 100% avoidable. Does that mean the Cardinals can go a game without committing one? Not necessarily, but cutting back would be a start. Since Ken Whisenhunt has taken over in 2007, the Cardinals have been one of the most penalized teams in the league. One thing that I've noticed is that when they limit the penalties, they are a much better team. If they don't make fools of themselves tonight, we may see the first victory in six weeks.
Involve Steve Breaston in the offense - I don't know what it is about Breaston, but he has a way of slashing a defense while still flying under the radar. He's done it to the 49ers before and has done it when healthy this season. He's nursing a knee injury but should suit up for tonight's game. Whisenhunt needs to involve Breaston in the offense and set he and Derek Anderson up for the deep ball against the 49ers defense.
I'll throw one more key out there -- know where Justin Smith is at all times. He wreaks havoc along offensive lines and has absolutely murdered the Cardinals in the past as well. He needs to be accounted for at all times. Otherwise, Anderson may lose several fumbles tonight.
What are your keys to success?