Tag Archives: Aaron Rodgers

Arizona Cardinals v. Green Bay Packers: Burn the Boats

The wait is over. The Arizona Cardinals have enjoyed a well-earned playoff bye and two weeks’ rest. It’s time again to lace ‘em up, strap it on and start slapping butts in the locker room.

The Green Bay Packers are in town, and they don’t expect a cordial welcome from 63,400 strong in University of Phoenix Stadium. It will be the venue’s 104th straight sellout.

Arizona’s 38-8 home triumph over Green Bay twenty days ago is still fresh in mind for the “Red Wave.” The Cardinals faithful watched their team sack QB Aaron Rodgers eight times and hold him to 151 passing yards Dec. 27. A vengeful Packers team will take the field today, fresh off a comeback win over Washington in the wild card round last Sunday. The contest will hinge on whether Green Bay has the firepower to match that of Cardinals, and conventional wisdom says no. Arizona leads the NFL in total offense with 408 yards per game and is second in points scored with 30.6.

But Green Bay has more playoff experience than Arizona. And Rodgers is one of the best at his craft, leading the Packers to a Super Bowl win in 2010.

Quarterback Carson Palmer has no NFL playoff victories to his credit. He shares that distinction with you, my attorney and the I.T. guy at work, the one with excessive chest hair. To be fair, Palmer’s only had two cracks at it, both with the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincy lost to Pittsburgh in 2005 and the New York Jets in 2009.

2009 was a bewitching playoff season in the Valley of the Sun, thanks to the late-career wizardry of QB Kurt Warner, who led Arizona on an improbable run that died in a crushing last-minute loss to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. With his heroic status cemented, Warner hasn’t had to pay for a drink since. Never mind that he doesn’t drink. He’s in the pantheon of Cardinals greats, and Carson Palmer’s on a quest to join that lofty fraternity.

Is Palmer too old at 36 to find playoff success in today’s speedy and powerful NFL? Warner was 37 in 2009. Tom Brady’s still agile and accurate at 38. Palmer has his health, abounding offensive weapons and has led the Cardinals to 13 wins this season. He set franchise records with 4,671 passing yards and 35 TDs. This is his time.

Palmer and coach Bruce Arians are pleased with the 13 wins but they’ve cast their eyes forward and are hell bent on notching three more and gripping the ultimate prize. To inspire his troops, Arians would do well to remember the story of Alexander the Great, whose army arrived on Persian shores and found it was vastly outnumbered. Alexander did not slip into retreat or call in reinforcements. Instead he gave the order to burn boats.

Nothing readies a man for a fight more than the savage realization that there is simply no avenue of retreat. You win or you die.

Welcome to the NFL playoffs.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

NFL Around The League: 10 Takeaways From Week 8

1.  The Raiders (4-3) and Rams (4-3) are above .500, and, for them, that’s worth celebrating.  The last time the Rams finished a season above .500 was 2003, 12 years ago.  Still, that’s one year better than the Raiders, who have not finished above .500 since 2002.

2.  If your team had a bye in Week 8, you’re lucky because injuries decimated teams this week.  Le’veon Bell and Steve Smith’s seasons are over (much like their teams, though).  Matt Forte suffered a knee injury, and Keenan Allen had a major kidney injury; however, both of their teams are in the race for the first overall pick, too.  Who steps in for them?

3.  The AFC South continues its ineptitude.  Will they be sending a five- or six-win team to the playoffs?  The sad thing is that there is going to be a 10- to 11-win team that gets kicked out of the playoffs while the AFC South sends utter mediocrity into the playoffs.

4.  The Vikings (5-2) are the most surprising team in the league.  The last time they went 5-2, in 2012, they ended up going 10-6 and making it to the playoffs, where they narrowly lost, 10-7, against division rival Packers.  Steffon Diggs’ game-tying 40-yard touchdown was incredible, and, if he can continue to produce so effectively, they will have a great dual-threat to complement Adrian Peterson.

5.  Colin Kaepernick will be benched this week for Blaine Gabbert and, in the future, playing for another team next season.  Which team, you ask?  I’m going to make a bold prediction and guess the Philadelphia Eagles.  Sam Bradford has been underwhelming, has one year in his contract right now, and the Eagles have gone halfway through the season with no extension.  Moreover, Kaepernick would finally be the dual-threat quarterback Chip Kelly has been sorely lacking while trying to implement his offensive scheme from college to the NFL.  In addition, wouldn’t Bradford be an upgrade from Gabbert?

6.  Do the Giants and Saints have the worst secondaries in the league?  The teams scored 101 points combined, with 840 yards passing, and Manning (6) and Brees (7) combined for thirteen passing touchdowns.  Drew Brees threw for 511 yards!

7.  Phillip Rivers lost pretty much every wide receiver on his team.  Now, Malcolm Floyd is probably the best option he has against a terrible Bears secondary, but it’s so hard to tell what he is going to do this week.  Regardless, Rivers is still on pace to set a season record in passing yards, and it seems that only Tom Brady stands as his major challenge this year.  The team really needs to find a running back soon.

8.  Matt Cassel is not the quarterback you want in the last two minutes of a game when you need a game-winning touchdown drive.  Come to think of it, though, Cassel really isn’t the quarterback you want in any situation.  Someone needs to tell him that, on fourth down with the last few seconds running off the clock, and you’re down 12-13, you should at least try to throw the ball up in the air and get something instead of a sack.  The Cowboys offense produced just four net yards in the fourth quarter.

9.  Denver’s defense is the best in the league.  They’ve been keeping a sub-par Peyton Manning in games all season.  However, this week, they faced their toughest test and held Aaron Rodgers to 77 yards passing!  The Packer’s leading receiver, Randal Cobb, managed just 27 yards.  Packers running backs gained 47 yards on 16 carries, and Eddie Lacy was the leading rusher with 38 yards.  In total, Green Bay produced only 140 yards against 500 for the Broncos.

10. The Jets are going to see one of their best starts to a season go down the drain due to injuries at the quarterback position.  Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith suffered major injuries on Sunday.

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Arizona Cardinals: Apparent Darlings of the Sporting Public

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Last weekend this blogger made his annual pilgrimage to Reno, NV, ostensibly to gauge the temperature of the sporting public regarding the Arizona Cardinals.

Cocktail servers in cheerful hairstyles and abiding grins combed the sportsbook at the Peppermill Hotel and Casino, ferrying over-iced, lower-shelf cocktails to wagering hopefuls gathered around small, round tables in the muffled calm preceding kickoff of the morning games, before the flash of 100 TV monitors set visiting hopefuls in replica jerseys aglow alongside unshaven locals burning Camels down to the butt and recounting last week’s wagering triumphs to anyone within earshot.

I observed that a bloody mary does tend to lubricate one’s thinking as one considers, say, adding woeful Jacksonville and the points to a parlay card. But soon enough I settled in, scanned the board and got down to business.

I noticed the Peppermill had installed visiting Arizona as a mere 2.5 favorite over the Detroit Lions. The oddsmakers had either lost confidence after the Cardinals suffered their first loss of the season to St. Louis the previous week or they reasoned that the Lions were due to bust out at home for their first win. Judging by the yelps that would rise up when Arizona’s Chris Johnson broke off another big run or Carson Palmer threw for one of his three touchdowns, the smart money in the room was on the Cardinals. In the end, Arizona returned to winning form and dismantled Detroit 42-17 at Ford Field, to the delight of many.

This week I’ll watch the Cardinals take on Pittsburgh in the relative quiet and fresher air of my home. Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger is still nursing a knee injury and is unlikely to play. Coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator James Bettcher have hatched a plan, therefore, to stop backup QB Michael Vick and running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell has ripped off consecutive 100+ yard games at a nifty 5.5 yard clip. Vick’s game no longer features explosive running speed, and Arians will trust the No Fly Zone to stop Vick’s short and mid-range passing game. All defensive eyes will be on Bell whenever he touches the ball.

Aging sack machine Dwight Freeney will take the field for the first time this year. Arizona hopes he can recapture some past magic and partially replace the departed John Abraham’s 11.5 sacks of last year.

Defense aside, one can’t ignore that the 2015 Arizona Cardinals are an offensive juggernaut, scoring over 40 points in three of their first five contests. The team is healthy and weapons abound, bolstered by the return of RB Andre Ellington, who raced for a 63 yard score last week. Chris Johnson continues to impress at 5.1 yards per rush. Carson Palmer forgot to pack his knee brace last week at Detroit–really–but it will be safely attached this week to help withstand whatever menacing shots Pittsburgh blitzers might deliver.

Palmer’s QB rating of 114 has him breathing the same air as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Another strong performance, this time in the roiling cauldron of Three Rivers Stadium, will go a long way toward solidifying Arizona’s place among the NFL elite.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation