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Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars: Keys to the Game

When the Cardinals take the field in Jacksonville this Sunday, a lot will be on the line, as they've already begun the season 0-1. After a tough loss to the division rival 49ers, the Cardinals see themselves needing a win on the road, a place where they've had trouble winning in the past. Last year the Cardinals only won one playoff game on the east coast, which was at night. The Jaguars find themselves in a similar situation, as they lost a close game against their division rival, the Indianapolis Colts. Both teams will be battling to get that first win of the season, and here are the keys to the game.

  • Cardinals can't come out stale. West coast teams have recently struggled tremendously when traveling to the east coast. The main reason is the time zone change. At 1:00 PM ET, it feels like 10:00 AM for the Cardinals. Last year, first quarters were a huge problem for west coast teams, especially the Cardinals. Whatever Coach Whisenhunt can do, whether it be earlier practices, or having the team arrive in Jacksonville sooner, can help this team. If they can come out strong in the first half, they'll have a better chance at winning this game.
  • Larry Fitzgerald vs Derek Cox. Cox will be the corner likely covering Fitzgerald for the game on Sunday. Last week Cox allowed Reggie Wayne to run wild, catching 10 passes for 162 yards and 1 touchdown. Fitz needs to come out on Sunday and reestablish himself as the best wide out in the game. Last week Fitzgerald dropped some key passes and failed to get open for a large portion of the game. He'll be needed in order for the Cardinals offense to get back to last year's form.
  • Stop the run. Last week the Cardinals were the number one team against the run, allowing only 21 total rushing yards. The test for this defense continues on Sunday, as they face another premier back in Maurice Jones-Drew. Although the Jaguars line is suspect, you can never count out the elusiveness and speed of MJD. The Cardinals need to focus on stopping the run, forcing David Garrard to try and beat the Cardinals through the air.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs Torry Holt. Last year, these two played fairly competitive against each other in two games. In their first meeting, DRC decided to tackle Holt out of bounds by suplexing him. After an exchange between the two, Holt decided to take out his anger by catching a touchdown over DRC. In the second meeting, DRC picked off a pass that prevented a Rams touchdown, and ran it back to score for the Cardinals. Holt should be starting on Sunday, and both should get an ample amount of time against each other.
  • Cardinals offensive line vs Jaguars defensive line. Although the Jaguars defensive line doesn't feature the most fierce lineman outside of John Henderson, it's still important to see how the Cardinals offensive line holds up against them. After a disastrous week one, the Cardinals are facing the aftermath of being owned by the 49ers defensive line. Kurt Warner will need all the protection he can get, because it was obvious that the pass rush got the better of Warner last week.
  • Limit penalties. The Cardinals already lead the league with the most penalties with 12. They can't win games when they commit that many and when you have an important drive in the fourth quarter, penalties can end any hope of winning. Being on the road in another teams environment also won't help. If the Cardinals can avoid the pre-snap penalties and limit any ill-advised mistakes, it will give them a huge advantage.
  • Establish a running game. This may be the key to every game this season, as the Cardinals have lacked a consistent running game since I can remember. They need to keep the defense closer to the line of scrimmage, in order to threaten through the air. Beanie Wells looked solid in the few plays he ran last week, and may be the answer at establishing the running game on Sunday.
  • That's it for this week's keys to the game. The Cardinals may need to exhibit much more skills then the one's listed about in order to win. They should already be in desperate mode, as they are 1 game back in the division. What are your keys to the game?