Come Saturday the Arizona Cardinals will be playing in the divisional round of the 2008 playoffs. Yes that's right. Our next match-up brings us to Carolina to take on Steve Smith and the Panthers. Even though this won't be the first meeting between the two teams, lets hope it won't have the same result. Our opponents over at Cat Scratch Reader seem to think one of the keys to the game will be their star receiver matching up against our young-gun corner, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. DRC has come a long way this season and will face his toughest test this Saturday. Steve Smith is probably the most dynamic receiver in the NFL and will try to make DRC his newest victim. Another key to the game is the weather. Who doesn't think that's a huge factor? Its no secret that Kurt Warner and the Cardinals are a warm climate team, and possibly playing in the rain could dramatically change the outcome of this game. Its going to be a battle folks, and lets hope we can come out on top. Here are several keys to the game, RotB style:
- Protect Kurt Warner. When he has time, he plays like he is the MVP. He can change the game with his accuracy, and getting the ball into the hands of Larry Fitzgerald is very important.
- Stop the Run. Without the run, Carolina can't compete. Jake Delhomme is a leader, but lets face it, he's not going to win by carrying the team on his shoulders.
- Eliminate bone-headed mistakes. When the penalty flags start flying, it can kill momentum, and put the Cardinals in bad field position. Turnovers can do the same, the only difference is, they give the ball to the opposition.
- Bring a balanced attack. If Edge can run like he has been, it will open up the passing game. If Boldin is out, Edge may have no choice but to step up.
The Cardinals will most likely try to play the underdog card. It seemed to have motivated them last week, and hopefully will carry over on Saturday. We all know the Cardinals offense will show up. The real question, is if the defense comes to play. They need to play like this is their last game. Fact is, if they lose, they are out! Maybe that will be enough motivation. The bottem line is that they need to bring their A-game. That's hard to ask coming from a young team with hardly any playoff experience. That brings us to the next point, key match ups:
- Levi Brown vs. Julius Peppers - Brown will need to dominate at the line of scrimmage to win this battle. We will most likely see TE formations to bring help or the old RB chip on Peppers.
- DRC vs. Steve Smith - As addressed earlier, DRC needs to focus on Smith and not go after the ball for the big play. Giving up 5-7 yards here and there won't hurt the D.
- Karlos Dansby vs. DeAngelo Williams - What Dansby did last week against Turner was something special. Wherever Turner ran, Dansby was there waiting. He will need to play the same this time, only against a much quicker Williams.
- Larry Fitzgerald vs. Ken Lucas/Chris Gamble - Both Cornerbacks will undoubtedly struggle against Fitz. He's gotten the best of very good corners this season. If Fitz can run accurate routes and hold on to the ball, expect him to have a big game.
As the 2008 season comes to an end, lets hope the Cardinals come out on top. It's still early in the playoffs, and anything can happen. If the Cardinals can win on Saturday, they'll not only gain national respect, but it will put them in good position to contend for the championship. If you don't already know, a Cardinals win this week, and an Eagles win, will put the NFC Championship game in Arizona. Its still a while away, and this team needs to take care of business on Saturday first. Lets hope for something special.