This week's three keys to an Arizona Cardinals Week 15 victory over the Detroit Lions are a prelude to a dream. A nightmare, actually.
We know no matter what is written here, the team will fail in every aspect on offense once again. That will spell doom for a 10th consecutive time, dropping the team to 4-10 on the season and causing fans to sell their tickets to the final home game of the season—next week against the Chicago Bears—to opposing fans at half what they paid.
Team president Michael Bidwill announced this week that coach Ken Whisenhunt will have a job with the team through at least the end of this season. His carefully-crafted comments (all of which you can read here, via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com) tell a tale of loyalty—the same loyalty Whisenhunt has shown good friend and inept offensive coordinator Mike Miller—and fairness.
While Bidwill’s random act of kindness to Whisenhunt seems ill-advised, he does have a solid point. Firing Ken now would not improve the team immediately, nor would it solve the quarterback conundrum facing the franchise.
Waiting for the season to end before making his decision is both responsible and un-Bidwill-like. The elder man sharing the same surname—Michael’s father and team owner, Bill—would have had Whisenhunt fired long before the losing streak approached nine games.
Losing seasons are the norm in Arizona, so this season is nothing new. Whisenhunt helped change the culture surrounding the team from the butt of NFL jokes to semi-relevancy. But three consecutive years of fans having to deal with extended losing streaks is unacceptable.
They are the only franchise to endure losing streaks of at least six games during each of the past three seasons.
Here are your three keys to a Cards victory over the Lions, unofficially brought to you by Pepto Bismol, Tums and that bottle of oaky liquid sitting in your cupboard.
It’s a novel concept, isn’t it? The object of football is to score more points than the opposition. That is every NFL franchise’s ultimate goal every week.
Doing so is an issue for these Cardinals, as you all know.
They started the season by winning their first four games, during which they scored at least 20 points every time out. The 20-point mark has escaped them during their current nine-game cataclysm, however—they have averaged 10.6 points per game since the start of October.
Whisenhunt’s decision to start rookie Ryan Lindley this Sunday is a move to the future, as John Skelton had once again another chance to take the starting job from Lindley last week.
The team’s first shutout since 2003—a 38-0 shellacking at the hands of the same Seattle Seahawks team that handed them their awesome 58-0 drubbing last week—allowed Whisenhunt to slap Skelton with the entire sideline bench, likely ending his Cardinals career.
Score points. It’s not that difficult, right?
Is that a new nickname? Could be. After picking off Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez and Russell Wilson in consecutive weeks, Patrick Peterson has six interceptions this season—tied for second in the NFL with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and trailing only Chicago Bears CB Tim Jennings.
For the defense to succeed at stopping the Lions Sunday, Peterson has to shut down superstar receiver Calvin Johnson. There is no way around it. To win, that has to be the focal point.
Of the 156 passes intended for Johnson this season, only three have been picked off—the Rams' Bradley Fletcher, the Eagles' Nnamdi Asomugha and the Colts' Robert Mathis have gotten Matt Stafford while covering Johnson.
Allowing Johnson—who leads the NFL with 17 receptions of at least 25 yards—to get deep is beyond “mistake.” It simply cannot happen. Having said that, expect at least some help for Peterson on Johnson.
A part-time bracket is likely.
Last week, the Cardinals turned the ball over an NFL season-high eight times (Pittsburgh also did it). Skelton was intercepted four times and fumbled once, Lindley fumbled on his first drive and Peterson muffed and fumbled a punt return.
The Seahawks scored 30 of their 58 points off those eight turnovers.
The offense has turned the ball over 13 times over the last three games. An offense that putrid should not be allowed on an NFL field, but the Cardinals have no choice. They must run something out there.
Our friends at FootballOutsiders (h/t Darren Urban) have insisted the Cardinals offense is not one of the worst in history, noting the 2010 version of repugnant offense the Cardinals put out was worse than the current version.
Thanks for the reassurance.
Matchup to Watch: Cards CB Patrick Peterson vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson
This matchup will be the most-watched event of the game. More eyes will be on Peterson and Johnson than will be on anyone else.
Each man is elite at his respective position. Each man is having a great season.
Johnson has a chance to make history by the end of this season, needing to average 101 yards per game over the final three to break Jerry Rice’s 17-year-old NFL record of 1,848 receiving yards in a single season, set in 1995.
Peterson hopes to snuff that out by shutting down the 6’5”, 230-pound freak of nature.
As is the case with most Cardinals games, the offense will disappoint mightily Sunday. Lindley is the starter, so you can expect wildly inaccurate throws and a handful of 3-and-outs. This will lead to his benching at halftime.
Don’t expect new addition Brian Hoyer to be active Sunday, as he is so new he doesn’t know the offense yet (do Skelton or Lindley know the offense?).
How should the Cardinals approach the final three games of 2012?
Beanie Wells will be under-utilized to the point of irrelevancy once again. Because of a substantial halftime deficit, Miller will call nothing but pass plays the entire second half, leading to multiple Skelton interceptions.
Because of the excessive passing, expect the tag team of Lindley and Skelton to be lit up more often than Snoop Dogg on a Caribbean party cruise. Rookie left tackle Nate Potter will be beaten for a sack off the edge by former Cards first-round pick Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Ndamukong Suh will have his first multiple-sack game of the season.
Arizona’s defense will do all it can, but Stafford, Johnson and the Lions will be too much, especially considering its own offense cannot sustain a drive.
These two teams are on a combined 14-game losing streak. One of them has to keep it up.
Final Score: Lions 34, Cards 6