Friday, September 28, 2007

Cardinals: "What are the Chances...?"

The outcome of this week’s game is tough to predict. There’s good reason to think the Steelers will beat the Cardinals this Sunday; after all, Pittsburgh is a better, more confident team. And it’s difficult to bet against a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. His career record as a starter is 37-12 (including six playoff games), and he’s 30-4 as a starter if one removes last season (accident-appendectomy-concussion) from the equation. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe he has only one career loss against an NFC team (at Atlanta last year, the game in which he was concussed in the third quarter).

At the same time, there are countless red flags that make this Sunday’s game a dicey proposition. First, Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm know the Steelers' personnel and have years of first-hand experience going against Dick LeBeau’s defense. The players can discount this from here till Sunday, but winning and losing in the NFL is a fine line and this intimate knowledge could be a difference-maker. Even more troubling is that Whisenhunt and Grimm understand Roethlisberger’s strengths and weaknesses, and might know better than anyone how to minimize Big Ben’s effectiveness.

Another problem is that the Cardinals have a terrific receiving corps, one which the Steelers’ DB’s might have a hard time covering. Arizona’s pass protection is much improved this year (only two sacks allowed in three games); if the Cards’ QB gets time to throw he might be able to pick apart the Steelers’ secondary. Matt Leinart is scheduled to start the game for Arizona, but if he’s ineffective expect Whisenhunt to turn to backup Kurt Warner (as he did last week versus Baltimore). With ample time to throw, Warner is still capable of carving up a secondary like he did during his time with the Rams.

Meanwhile, I’d be slightly surprised if the Cards run the ball effectively versus the Steelers’ defense, but it’s worth noting that Edgerrin James is the last tailback to gain 100 yards versus Pittsburgh, rushing for 124 yards on 29 carries back in November of 2005.

It would also be a mistake to minimize the Cardinals’ newfound home field advantage at University of Phoenix Stadium. Assuming the Cards choose to leave the roof open, it’s going to be hot (sunny and in the mid-90s, at the very least). That’s refreshingly cool for the home team (which is accustomed to summer temperatures of up to 117 degrees), but warm enough to make the Steelers’ linemen very uncomfortable.

Finally, Steelers fans might recall that Bill Cowher started his head coaching career 3-0 but lost his fourth game (at Green Bay) against an upstart team looking to prove itself against an allegedly superior foe. The same thing could very well happen on Sunday. With so many former Steelers’ players and coaches on the other sideline, I’m sure Whisenhunt's charges will be fired up and play with playoff-like intensity.

We hope we’re wrong but The Steelyard gives the Steelers only a 45 percent chance [loss] of beating the Cardinals on Sunday.

In terms of predicting the outcome of Steelers' games, “What are the Chances?” is 3-0 this season and 16-3 overall.

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Blogger Gary said...

You can't argue with success, and at 3-0 in your predictions, it would seem you all know what you're doing. But the Steelers are also 3-0, and I hope to see them continue their winning ways. I said at the beginning of the year it wouldn't surprise me to see them 6-0 after the bye week. I still feel they are the better team, but the intangibles could play a big role in the outcome. I'll just cheer them on and keep my fingers crossed. GO STEELERS!!!

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you watch the Cards, your post suggests that you don't.

They are a running team. Also Leinart is averaging only 5.22 YPA.

This means they aren't explosive in the passing game.

1:38 PM  

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