So for my first SB Nation post ever, I will be discussing the various things that need to get down for the Cardinals to succeed following the Bye Week. The rest of October will definitely be rough, but it will be important as the team rebuilds their confidence and attempts to catch up to the 49ers in the division.
This is be the worst way to measure any progress gained during the Bye Week. I mean I believe the defense may be able to showcase itself somewhat against the Steelers offense, especially if Big Ben is still hobbled, but the offense will have a TOUGH time functioning against that Steelers defense. I mean, we already struggled heavily against teams like the Vikings, Redskins, Giants, Panthers, and the Seahawks. All of which I personally believe to be inferior defensively to the Steelers.
What will be key to the Cardinals having a chance?
Stepping up coverage-wise would be the first obvious point on defense. Since that offensive line and Pouncey won't be allowing too many sacks, despite being suspect as of late, I feel Ben Roethlisberger can make plays and will definitely make up for the lack of consistency up front. I believe that this game will rest heavily in the hands of our DBs, namely Peterson, Jefferson, and Adams. With the arsenal of receivers that the Steelers have(with Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as two outstanding Second Years and Wallace who is one heck of a speedster), I know it will be extremely difficult for the Cardinals secondary to shut them down, let alone keep up.
That brings us to the next point, the Cardinals MUST perform offensively:
The offensive MUST be able to outrun and out-maneuver the Pittsburgh defense(especially Troy Polamalu) and keep pace with the Steelers. Getting of to a strong start would be nice, but that is not necessarily how the Cards have worked so far this season. The Cards will need to convert in the end zone, an aspect of the game we have failed at quite often, recently. Also, eating up the clock is ESSENTIAL. The Steelers cannot be allowed to control the tempo of the match, or they will dominate the Cardinals. With Rashard Mendenhall back from injury and a strong set of backs ups, they will certainly have no trouble running the ball and running down the clock. Thus the Cardinals offense MUST keep the ball for a great deal more time than in previous games. If not just for the fact that the defense is getting worn out there and will definitely need to be well rested to keep up with the Steelers in the 4th.
For the Ravens, that match up will be even tougher. As a defense, they EMBARRASSED the Jet last week. They have both experience leadership and extremely large amounts of talent on their roster.
IF the Cardinals find a way to run successfully they WILL win. The Ravens have allowed only 290 yards on 90 rushing attempts in 4 games. That is 3.2 yards per play and 72.5 yards per game. So if the Cards, namely Beanie Wells, can run the ball effectively, then that will definitely give the Cards a fighting chance. Allowing 848 passing yards over 4 games. 74.51% of the Offensive yards given up by the Ravens this season have been through the air. Thus, Kevin Kolb will definitely need to be on top of his game if the Cards are to have an inkling of hope. The Cardinal receivers also need to hang onto the ball.
With a +7 turnover ratio for the Season thus far, the Cardinals defense will definitely have to capitalize on mistakes and secure what have been almost-picks in the last few games. The Ravens have averaged 4.3 yards per carry and have a definitely tackle breaking threat with Ray Rice, so the Cardinals defense will have to make sure to securely tackle downlow and hold on until Rice is wrestled to the ground, simply because we have all seen, one too many times, Ray Rice plant his off-hand on the field, regain balance, and take off down the field after what we all thought to be a sure tackle.
Anquan Boldin is also a threat, with Flacco's amazing arm strength, the Raven can gain a large amount of yards in a hurry. While the Raven's receiving core is not as illustrious as the Steelers' or even the Cardinals' own, they definitely have guys who will make a play, including a rookie with some great speed, that the Cardinals defense may struggle to keep up with. Torrey Smith has definitely made a name for himself so far this season. With 3 touchdowns and 153 yards on only 6 receptions, he is definitely a deep threat the Cardinals need to keep an eye on.
Anyway, so what are your thoughts on how the Cardinals will fare?
Putting aside biases and such, I believe that Cardinals will lose to the Ravens(14-24) and have a chance at beating the Steelers(21-17). This is in no way based off of special calculations or facts, it is just my gut. Thank you for reading and I hope what I had to say was interesting.