Even though the Cardinals started the season an impressive 4-0, it was only a matter of time before someone ended their streak. It happens every year; with the way the NFC West is playing, I'm not surprised it was the Rams. Right now, St. Louis is playing just as well as any other team in the NFC.
You know Arizona will be looking to bounce back this week as they head back to the desert. Currently, Ken Whisenhunt's group is an impressive 3-0 at home this season. They are outscoring their opponents 26-14 when at the University of Phoenix Stadium. After this week's game, the Cardinals play three of their next four games on the road.
Even at 4-1, this Sunday's game against Buffalo is a must win.
Right now, the only thing keeping this team in first place is Ray Horton's defense. They are fifth in the NFL in points allowed. When you're only surrendering 15.6 points per game, it's hard to lose games. The stout performances on defense have truly been a team effort. Daryl Washington leads the way at linebacker, Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett dominate up front and Patrick Peterson locks down the back end.
Pro Football Focus has Washington as its second-best overall inside linebacker. Yet, he only trails NaVorro Bowman by two tenths of a point, and he trumps him in plenty of individual categories—most notably pass-rushing ability. There is no inside backer in the game who is better at getting after the quarterback. Through Week 5, he has four quarterback sacks, three hits and five hurries.
By breaking down those numbers even further, you realize he records a pressure once every five times he rushes the passer. No inside linebacker who has a minimum of 20 pass rush attempts tops that mark. But without Campbell and Dockett eating up opposing offensive linemen, Washington wouldn't be performing at the level he is.
Even though No. 90 single-handedly shut down Seattle's run game in Week 1, Campbell deserves a majority of the praise. He has maintained an elite level of play while participating in over 90 percent of Arizona's defensive snaps. There isn't a better 3-4 defensive end in the NFC, and his numbers through five weeks put him on pace for a career year.
Any front seven that includes three players of that caliber should have a Top 10 defense annually.
Unlike the 49ers, who are also 4-1, there are plenty of areas that could use improvement in Arizona. At this point the biggest glaring weakness is its inability to protect quarterback Kevin Kolb. When left tackle Levi Brown went down earlier in the year with a torn triceps muscle, I didn't think there was any way D'Anthony Batiste would be twice as bad. But boy, was I wrong.
In terms of tackle play, he is the worst offensive tackle in the league. He has surrendered 32 quarterback pressures, and eight of them have been sacks. No left tackle has allowed their starting quarterback to be sacked more than Batiste has. To make things worse, the Cardinals tackle play on the right side is equally as bad.
Rookie Bobby Massie is a fourth-round pick out of Mississippi and was highly touted by multiple so called "draft experts." Unfortunately, for the sake of Russ Grimm and Coach Whisenhunt, he hasn't played like a guy who deserved to be drafted at all. In pass-blocking situations he is allowing a pressure once every seven snaps. Not to mention the fact no tackle has allowed more sacks than he has.
Even when moving inside, things don't get much better. The only Cardinals offensive lineman that has a positive pass-blocking grade is left guard Daryn Colledge. Outside of that, the two other starters on the inside are completely tanking. Lyle Sendlein and Adam Snyder have allowed 20 pressures of their own. So when you look at the big picture, Kolb has already been sacked 22 times this season.
Rising: Kevin Kolb
Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, he is the best source of offensive production for Arizona. When given time, Kolb has actually played at a high-level this season. When he's not under duress, he has thrown for 662 yards and six touchdowns. His completion percentage is 62 and his quarterback rating is 94.
Falling: Arizona's Backfield
The injury to Beanie Wells stung, but the injury to Ryan Williams hurt even more. The Cardinals are now left with LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell and Alfonso Smith. As a backfield Arizona has only eclipsed the century mark once this season. To make matters worse they are averaging a measly 57.3 yards per game on the ground over their last three contests.
Rising: Kerry Rhodes
After a flat start to the season, Rhodes has picked up his game in every way. In coverage he is only allowing 54.5 percent of passes to be completed, and opposing quarterbacks only have a quarterback rating of 67.2 when throwing his way.
Falling: William Gay
Gay is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Rhodes. He is the worst cover corner the Cardinals have. Quarterbacks are completing just about every pass when they target him. On 22 completions, he has allowed 304 yards. Even though he had a bounce back game against St. Louis, his play needs to level off.
The Outlook Heading Into Week 6
Buffalo is coming off one of its worst losses in recent memory. So, offensive coordinator Mike Miller will need to devise a game plan that will take advantage of a vulnerable defense. Right now, the Bills can't rush the passer and they can't stop turning the ball over on offense. Over the last two weeks, they have had eight turnovers.
Fortunately for them, their backfield will be at full strength for the first time in weeks. A heavy dose of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller should be expected. No running back is averaging more yards after contact right now. On 48 rushing attempts Spiller is averaging 5.2 yards per carry after contact. Just think about that, it's an insane number.
Coach Whisenhunt is 1-0 all-time against Buffalo, and the Bills lead the series 5-4.
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