Play calling into today's NFL has morphed into a cat and mouse game at the line of scrimmage.
While pro coaches such as Bruce Arians express disdain for the "no huddle" trend in college football, the NFL has adopted its own version of it.
Look at what Matthew Stafford did to take command of the game versus the Cardinals.
He scrapped the huddle so as to buy time to swiftly get the offense in formation and to carefully read how the Cardinals' defense matched up. From there he used a hard count, sometimes two and three times to see if he could get any of the Cardinals' defensive linemen to jump off-sides, but even more importantly, he did it to see if he could get any of the Cardinals' linebackers and safeties to telecast their blitzes.
When he could see which players were getting jumpy, then came the check downs and the pass protection/blocking adjustments.
Stafford even pointed to the players he thought was going to blitz. It worked, because on a number of occasions the Cardinals' defense then checked out of their original blitz call, because they felt they had already given it away.
The Cardinals' normally blitz two or three times as much as they did versus the Lions...yet, Stafford had a lot to do with why the Cardinals blitzed only 15% of the time in this game.
Look at Aaron Rodgers with the Packers. Rodgers, who had a very difficult first half handling the Seahawks' pressure, did essentially what Stafford did. He bought himself some time at the line of scrimmage...made audibles in reaction to how the Seahawks' defense was aligned, gave numerous hard counts, which had the Seahawks' DTs and DEs jumping off sides and then Rodgers got a few free plays out of it where he loves to take his shots down the field. Rodgers has been doing this and thriving on it for years.
Tom Brady...same thing much of the time.
Conversely, the Cardinals typically huddle (and take their time calling the play that is read off Palmer's wristband---and, even worse, they take their sweet time getting out of the huddle and lined up)... and by the time Carson Palmer has the offense aligned, the play clock is running down and by the time they motion the WR (to give the offense a sense of whether the defense is in man or zone coverage), the play clock is under 5 seconds.
Then, Palmer snaps the ball on the first hut, which gives a distinct advantage to the defense.
Has Bruce Arians kept up with the times as a play caller? The Cardinals do not seem to gain the competitive advantage that other offenses do with QBs who audible and use hard counts and re-audible, when necessary.
Furthermore, it seems, more often than not, the Cardinals' offense has become highly predictable.
Thus, imagine how good the offense could be if they could win the cat and mouse games at the line of scrimmage and actually keep a defense guessing and on its heels.
Arians is a skillful play caller. But, like any poker player who hopes to win the jackpot, he can't keep giving his hand away.