12-24-11: Arizona Cardinals Bird Droppings - Cards/Bengals Gameday

Strike the pose(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Guess what, we have football one day early this week! Hope you guys didn't forget, and now here are some links to get this Christmas Eve morning started off.

Arizona Cardinals News:

Like A Playoff Game
Cards and Bengals each facing must-win to keep postseason hope alive

Signs point to Arizona Cardinals starting John Skelton against Cincinnati Bengals
Ken Whisenhunt still wasn't ready to name his starting quarterback for the Cardinals' game Saturday at Cincinnati, but Kevin Kolb, recovering from a concussion, was listed as questionable on the team's final injury report on Friday. "We'll see when we get there," Whisenhunt said after the team wrapped up its morning practice. "We'll make that decision after we travel. We've got to see how he (Kolb) responds after the flight today." Kolb, who missed last week's game against the Browns, once again was limited in practice Friday. Whisenhunt said he would know who his starter is later Friday night, but all indications would appear that it will be John Skelton for a second consecutive week.

Arizona Cardinals' Beanie Wells on verge of milestone
Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells can become the ninth different Cardinals player to rush for 1,000 yards if he picks up just six more yards against the Bengals. But he also has a shot at tying or setting another franchise record. With 10 rushing touchdowns and two games left to play, he is within reach of John David Crow's 1962 single-season record of 14.

Word From the Birds Blog - Whiz on starting QB: "We’ll know tonight"
The Cardinals went through an early-morning half-walkthrough/half-practice Friday morning, thanks to the short week and a long plane ride to Cincinnati. Afterward, you could plug in coach Ken Whisenhunt’s comments about the starting quarterback and Kevin Kolb’s situation from any of the previous two days: Both quarterbacks looked "good," he wants to see how Kolb (and Kolb’s concussion) respond to flying, and that they’d talk about it after landing.

Word From the Birds Blog - Friday before the Bengals
We will start, yet again, with the quarterback. No official announcement Friday. Kevin Kolb is officially listed as questionable, however, and that alone says to me John Skelton is the starter. I had that feeling as soon as Kolb was listed as limited Wednesday that would be the case – there’s no reason to turn away from Skelton if Kolb isn’t totally ready to go – and let’s face it, when Kolb has been ready to start, we all knew right away. When there has been a question, Skelton has gotten the nod.

azcentral.com blogs - Kent Somers - Notes before the Bengals
It's not frigid here in Cincinnati, but an outdoor ice skating rink across the street from the hotel serves as a reminder of how cold it can get here. It doesn't look like weather will be a factor in tomorrow's game against the Bengals, however. The forecast for the game is temperatures in the 40's, clear skies (full heart, can't lose).

Final Word: NFC West - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Big plays aplenty. We should expect the Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals to strike for big gains through the air, provided A.J. Green's shoulder injury allows for it. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and the Bengals' Green each entered Week 16 with seven receptions of 40 yards or longer, one behind Detroit's Calvin Johnson for the NFL lead. Fitzgerald had only one 40-plus reception last season. He had zero in 2009, when Kurt Warner's shoulder injury affected his ability to throw downfield. The seven receptions for 40-plus yards are a season high for Fitzgerald. He had 17 in his previous seven seasons. That helps explain why Fitzgerald is averaging 17.8 yards per reception, up 5.2 yards from last season and well above his previous season high (14.9 in 2008).

Where NFC West teams rank: Week 15 - NFC West Blog - ESPN
The NFC West now has two teams ranked among the top eight in fewest yards allowed, and two teams ranked among the top six in fewest points allowed.

NFC West third-down success rates by QB - NFC West Blog - ESPN
NFC West offenses rank 21st (Seattle), 28th (Arizona), 31st (San Francisco) and 32nd (St. Louis) in third-down conversion rates this season. I've broken out the conversion rates by play type and quarterback.

Dockett and Campbell Host Shopping Trips
Darnell Dockett held his annual "Happy Holidays with Nine-O" event and Calais Campbell hosted "Shop with a Jock" for hundreds of children in need. Paul Calvisi reports.

Wired - Michael Adams vs CLE
Cardinals CB Michael Adams was wired for sound during the win over the Browns. One of the more "chatty" Cards, Adams displays a big heart along with some solid dance moves.

Building the Gameplan vs CIN
Jody Jackson and Ron Wolfley build the gameplan for the Cardinals and Bengals match-up.

Arizona Sports News:

Coyotes enter holiday weekend with loss to Blues
The St. Louis Blues made the most of their chances -- scoring three times in their first 13 shots -- and defeated the Coyotes 3-2 on Friday night at Jobing.com Arena.

Keith Tkachuk enters Coyotes' Ring of Honor
As Keith Tkachuk stood at center ice, gazing up to the north corner of Jobing.com Arena while a banner adorned with his prized No. 7 was unveiled, he wore the same serious expression he carried into battle when he was a Coyote.

Joe Saunders: Arizona Diamondbacks wanted a 'different direction'
For much of the off-season, left-hander Joe Saunders could be found working out at Salt River Fields in preparation for next season. But he hasn't been there recently. "Too awkward," he said. Saunders made it clear to anyone who would listen that he wanted to return to the Diamondbacks next season. The team had other ideas.

ASU football endures second worst four-year stretch in school history
New coach Todd Graham inherits an Arizona State football program coming off the second worst four-year stretch in school history. ASU finished 21-28 in coach Dennis Erickson's final four seasons, a .428 winning percentage. That surpasses only a dreadful .285 winning percentage from 1935-38 for an uninterrupted four-year period. Rudy Lavik was ASU's coach from 1933-37 followed by Dixie Howell starting in '38.

NFL News:

PFF's NFC Pro Bowl Squad | ProFootballFocus.com
Hot on the heels of our AFC selections, we’ve of course got a roster of the year’s best for the NFC too. Again, selecting not based on hype or exposure, but simply on on-field performance, this team of stars represents the best we’ve seen from this conference in 2011. If you haven’t read about the AFC squad, be sure to catch up, otherwise … for your consideration, here are our NFC selections:

PFF's AFC Pro Bowl Squad | ProFootballFocus.com
So here it is, the one the players really want to see. No hype, no bias, just a simple acknowledgement that–on the field of play, for the first 14 games of 2011–they were among the best at their position. It’s not based on highlight reels and you get as much credit for playing well early as you do late (during the regular season, winning the first game counts the same in the standings as winning the last). We absolutely don’t lean towards players from teams that have the best records. It’s the ultimate capitulation to the power of hype when a coach says "yes he played well, but for him to get any recognition we have to play better as a team". Why? This is about selecting the best players, not about the laziness of people who can’t be bothered to watch or research teams that are playing poorly.

Week 16 NFL Injury Report: Fantasy Football Implications - SBNation.com
We break down the final injury report for week 16 of the 2011 NFL season.

Ben Roethlisberger Injury Update: Steelers QB Out For Saturday's Game - SBNation.com
The Pittsburgh Steelers will start Charlie Batch this Saturday as Ben Roethlisberger will rest his ankle for at least one week. Roethlisberger sat out practice on Wednesday and Thursday and the Steelers confirmed he will sit via a retweet of @SteelersDigest.

The Many Faces Of Peyton Manning - From Our Editors - SBNation.com
Peyton Manning wasn't playing, nor was he in uniform on Thursday night as the Indianapolis Colts took on the Houston Texans. Manning continues to rehab from neck surgery and won't be playing at all this season. But that doesn't mean Manning cameos weren't prevalent on Thursday Night Football as the NFL Network seemed to have a camera trained on him at all times. And we're extremely grateful for the Manning Cam.

McNabb, not Musgrave, becomes the Minnesota scapegoat | ProFootballTalk
So with the Vikings closing in on a 2-14 finish and no obvious changes planned at head coach or on the offensive side of the ball (adjustments on defense could be coming), someone has to catch blame for this Stecklish debacle. And that someone is Donovan McNabb.

Kluwe says McNabb hasn’t made promised donation to charity | ProFootballTalk
When Donnovan McNabb joined the Vikings, punter Chris Kluwe agreed to give up his No. 5 jersey, on a few conditions.

McCloughan's comment does him no favors - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Members of the San Francisco 49ers' tight-lipped front office surely must be nodding and laughing after reading bulletin-board material from former general manager Scot McCloughan, now a personnel man for the rival Seattle Seahawks. "They come to our place Christmas Eve and we're going to beat the hell out of 'em," McCloughan said, according to Mike Silver.

Closer look at Seahawks' improved defense - NFC West Blog - ESPN
The Arizona Cardinals have improved dramatically on defense over the past couple months. We've discussed some of the potential reasons. The Seattle Seahawks were better than the Cardinals on defense early in the season, but they have still made significant gains. They ranked 22nd in points per game allowed and 16th in yards per game allowed after Week 9. They currently rank sixth in points and eighth in yards. They lead the NFL in takeaways since Week 10 with 18, two more than San Francisco.

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