The Arizona Cardinals(7-3) take their five game road winning streak to Tennessee when they face the Titans(4-6) on Sunday. The Cardinals have won 6 out of their last 7 games, while the running game has been rolling, averaging 162 rushing yards per game the last three games(all wins). Kurt Warner suffered a blow to the head that resulted in a mild concussion and missed the second half against the St. Louis Rams last week. The Cardinals were uncertain that Warner would play this week but he has been able to participate in full practices the last two days. The Titans are currently riding a 4 game win streak and have a playoff berth set in their sights. With Vince Young at quarterback, the offense has turned the ball over less, and defenses have been forced to game plan around Young's ability to jet out of the pocket. Let's take a look at the keys to success.
Cardinals need Warner on offense: So far this week there have been questions whether or not Kurt Warner will start on Sunday. It remains to be seen but Warner has stated he should ready to go. If he doesn't, back up Matt Leinart will get the nod and the Cardinals will need to be prepared. Coming in against the Rams last week with a 21-3 lead, the Cardinals offensive playbook switched to conservative and Leinart was only expected to manage the remainder of the game. The Cardinals cannot do the same against the Titans, which is why it's key for Warner to start. With Kurt in the game, the offense fires on all cylinders.
Limit the Titans rushing attack: When I say limit, I mean it. The Cardinals will in no way stop the Titans ability to run so if they can at least slow them, they'll have a better opportunity to win the game. Chris Johnson will get his reps and likely break the 100 yard mark, but the Cardinals can't let him average over 5 yards per carry. Vince Young also has the ability to make defensive coordinators cringe as he can consistently pick up first downs with his legs. The Cardinals will likely have a spy(Adrian Wilson), and need to keep all of the gaps covered.
Let receivers battle Titans secondary: The Titans defensive backs have been burned this year and that shouldn't stop on Sunday. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin should get many looks and with Warner in the game, he'll find them. The Cardinals should also use this opportunity to bring back the deep ball. Fitzgerald is one of the few wide receivers that can go up and get the ball regardless of how it's thrown, and even if he's not able to, a pass interference penalty flag won't be far away. The deep ball is what made this offense so good last year and Ken Whisenhunt needs to open up the playbook sooner or later.
Finish the game: Last week the Cardinals jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the first half, but couldn't score in the second. The defense also gave up 10 points - which isn't a lot - but it did allow the Rams to come within a touchdown. The Cardinals have had their problems finishing games, particularly when they lead in the first half. Ken Whisenhunt prefers to play conservative once they have the lead, but being conservative doesn't mean you can't score.
Stay off of cruise control: This one falls along the same line of finishing the game. The Cardinals are currently 7-3, a record they also had this team last year before losing 5 of 6 games. They owned the NFC West then, and so far have a 3 game lead this season. The next three game may be the toughest stretch of the season with the Titans Sunday, the Vikings at home next week, and the 49ers on the road the following week. The Cardinals need to stay awake Sunday, and the remainder of the season.
If the Cardinals can follow these keys to the game they will have a much greater chance of winning. We know they'll come to play as they have every road game, and they limited penalties last week. One more thing to watch for is ball security. The Cardinals had two fumbles last week and still won the game, something they rarely do when losing the turnover battle. What are your keys to the game?