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Arizona Cardinals At St. Louis Rams: Game Preview

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The Arizona Cardinals begin their long-awaited 2010 season on the road against the division rival St. Louis Rams this Sunday. Many questions will be answered. Many will not be. The Cardinals goal of becoming three-time NFC West champions will be tested.

The 2010 offseason was all about change. Kurt Warner retired -- breaking Cardinals' fans hearts understandably. Soon after, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, and Antrel Rolle were all sporting new jerseys. Many doubters and critiques wrote off the Cardinals, sending them back to the oblivion of the doormats of the NFL. 

One constant in the desert that most analysts forgot about is captian of the ship -- Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt-- or "Whiz" -- turned around the losing culture of the Arizona Cardinals and has made all the right decisions since coming to the desert. His strength will be tested this season however, and the pressure will grow in his shoulders for each passing game. It all begins with this Sunday. 

The Rams drafted their quarterback of the future this offseason but are clearly still in rebuilding mode. Featuring 14 rookies on their roster, it's obvious that the Cardinals are the favorites to win this week's game. Much is riding on a win considering the schedule will only get more difficult. 

Three Keys To Success

  1. Pressure the Rookie Quarterback - Billy Davis won't stress enough to his defense the importance of pressuring rookie quarterback Sam Bradford. This is Bradford's first game of his career and he doesn't have the benefit of a true number one receiver or a security blanket to throw to. Forcing him into difficult situations will play to the Cardinals favor and force the first round pick to make a mistake.
  2. Stop Steven Jackson - Outside of Bradford, this is the biggest key to success. The Cardinals have surprisingly had success against Jackson -- most likely because speedy running backs give their defense fits. Jackson did eclipse the 100-yard mark in St. Louis last season and the Cardinals nearly lost the game. If the Rams can get the ball moving on the ground, it will open up the passing game for Bradford. 
  3. Get The Chemistry Flowing - It took the Cardinals far too long last season to get into sync  -- falling to the 49ers week one. The same can't happen this year as the Cardinals need to get off to a quick start. They are breaking in a new look on both sides of the ball, but need to establish chemistry early against the Rams in order to get the win.

Key Match Up

Steven Jackson vs Daryl Washington - The more I think about this match up, the more I get pumped up. Jackson is the Rams best player -- no doubt about that. They are going to hand the ball off to him, especially considering they want to slowly work Sam Bradford into the game. With Gerald Hayesbeginning the season on the PUP list, Washington becomes the big dog in the middle. His speed and relentless attack to the ball carrier will be needed on defense. Let's not forget that Washington is also a rookie. Rookies tend to make mistakes in case you haven't noticed. Tomorrow, Washington will need to play on his A-game to insure the Cardinals get the 'W'.

Biggest Question

Can Derek Anderson return to his 2007 Pro Bowl form?

There are numerous questions swirling around Arizona Cardinals town. The biggest question is the play of starting quarterback Derek Anderson. With two rookie quarterbacks backing him up, he can't afford to struggle. All eyes will be on Anderson when the Cardinals offense takes the field. It's only a matter of if he can lead them into the end zone.

Key Stat

The Arizona Cardinals are 9-2 against the St. Louis Rams since December 19th, 2004 and they currently own a seven game winning streak as well.

Sunday can't come soon enough for Arizona Cardinals fans. Although there is more riding against the team this season, many fans understand that Ken Whisenhunt notoriously doesn't show his cards in the preseason. He also uses the "no respect" card commonly in the locker room. Will we see a new roster surprise many and continue their run at a third consecutive playoff appearance? Or will we see the devastating result of losing so much talent in one offseason? Either way, I can't wait for tomorrow's game.