I've read, heard and even thought at times this week that the Arizona Cardinals stood very little chance of traveling across the country and defeating the New England Patriots in a cold, snowy Foxboro. After all we're talking about a team that's been in four Super Bowls in the past seven years, winning three of them. We're talking about a team that's won double digit games six times this century, not including this season, including winning the same number of games last season that the Cardinals won in the three combined seasons prior to Ken Whisenhunt taking the reins. And all of that isn't even taking into account that the game is on the east coast in what should some very cold, wet, miserable weather. So the Cardinals should just roll over and play dead right?
Absolutely not. The Cardinals may not have the history or tradition that the Patriots can claim, but they do have the talent to stand toe to toe with these Patriots. This Patriots team is good, there no denying that, but they're not last year's Pats or the Pat's that won the Super Bowl in 2002, 2004 and 2005. This Patriots team has 14 players on injured reserve, including Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison, Laurence Maroney and Adalius Thomas, and they've got another 10 guys on the injury report this week. These Patriots also don't dominate teams anymore, considering that six of their nine wins have been by ten points or less. These Patriots are beatable and that's something that everyone should remember.
Team Stats - Game Averages
|Off||25.0||363.7 (6th)||226.1 (11th)||137.6 (7th)|
|Def||21.6||320.1 (16th)||211.8 (15th)||108.4 (15th)|
The defense is really starting to wear down as the injuries mount. They've allowed 28.6 points per game over the past five games, despite four of the five teams ranking 21st or worse in terms of points per game. They rank 15th in both passing yards and rushing yards per game, but they give up most of their points by way of the passing game. They've only allowed 8 rushing touchdowns (tied for 6th), but they've allowed 26 passing touchdowns, ahead of only the Cardinals. They also allow 7.6 yards per passing attempt (26th) and opposing QB's have posted a QB rating of 93.9 against them (27th).
As for the offense, they're still performing admirably considering the devastating injuries that they've faced. Matt Cassel, who hadn't started a game at any level this century before this season, is having a great year completing over 63% of his passes and is on pace to finish the season somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500 yards, 20-ish TDs and 12 or 13 interceptions. He's been very efficient with only three games with multiple interceptions and four games with multiple touchdowns. Their running game is the definition of running back by committee with four backs over 200 yards (five if you include Cassel) and two backs over 500 yards. They flip-flop the starting job but Kevin Faulk is the guy who handles the ball more than anyone. He's totaled just under 1,000 total yards on 82 rushes and 54 receptions (7.0 yards per touch).
So what's the morale of the story? The Cardinals don't have to treat this game like preseason game and rest anyone of importance. If the Cardinals can get over the idea of playing on the east coast in freezing temperatures and play a good game, they can win this game. Agree, or have I had too much Kool-Aid today? Do the Patriots still scare you or are the elements more of a concern?