Monday, December 28, 2015

First Round Bye Secured!

Arizona crushed Green Bay 38-8. It was 31-0 before the Packers finally got on the board. My concerns about what Aaron Rodgers might do against a secondary that is without Tyrann Mathieu until some time in 2016 were largely unfounded, because the defense sacked Rodgers 8 times, made him fumble three times, and intercepted him once. All told, he went 15 for 28 for 151 yards, and two of those fumbles were returned for TDs. Credit to Cory Redding, not only for the TD, not only for stiffarming Eddie Lacy with seemingly no effort, but doing a Rick Flair strut in the end zone. Outstanding.

Palmer went 18 for 27 for 265 yards and 2 TDs, with 1 INT. The Cardinals didn't have a prolific rushing game - 26 yards for 121 yards - but it was effective enough. Interestingly, no one back dominated the carries, since Andre Ellington, Kerwynn Williams, and David Johnson all had between 7 and 9 carries, and 39 and 44 yards. They also combined for 5 catches for 97 yards, though Johnson did most of that himself.

So Arizona has a first round bye now. There is a chance they could get the #1 seed, if Carolina loses at home to Tampa, and Arizona wins, but I'm not sure if that's worth going all out for. But I think Arizona will know how that game went by the time their game starts, so they could always take out their starters if they figure out it's a no go. I'm not sure what Seattle will do. I'd guess they would prefer the 5 seed - which lets them face Washington, rather than the NFC North winner - but I can't see them being horribly concerned either way. Even after getting smacked around by the Rams, the Seahawks seem like a team that's fairly confident in themselves (mostly justified).


Monday, December 21, 2015

Division Champs!

Seattle didn't lose to Cleveland, which isn't much of a shock, but it doesn't matter, because Arizona trucked the Eagles, 40-17. It was tied at 10 at one point in the second quarter, but obviously Arizona rolled after that. The Eagles turned the ball over 4 times, and David Johnson ran for 187 yards and 3 TDs. Throw in another 34 yards from Kerwynn Williams, and 11 from Stefan Taylor, and Arizona ran for 230 yards. Arizona is (once again) not going to have anyone near the top of the league's rushing totals, what with the rotating cast of backs thanks to all the injuries, but that Arizona has still had a productive rushing game all season is really encouraging.

I'm not clear what the prognosis is on Mathieu's knee. He picked off Bradford with about 3 minutes left in the game to ice things, but as he started to run with it, it looked like the end of his right foot got caught on the back of his left calf, and maybe twisted the knee. It doesn't sound like it's a serious injury, but I'd prefer Arizona's secondary be healthy going into the postseason. The D doesn't get many sacks - Freeney leads the team with 4, and the team has 25 total - so there's a lot of pressure of the defensive backs. With some of the QBs they'll see in the playoffs, they need the best guys they have.

So Arizona locked up the NFC West, and there is still an (extremely slim) chance they could get the #1 seed. By the same token, they still haven't locked up the first round bye, since Oakland couldn't beat the Packers. So Arizona needs to down Green Bay this next week to take care of that, so it doesn't come down to beating Seattle in Week 17. I'm not sure the Seahawks would care - they're in the playoffs, but are stuck as a wild card, so Carroll might rest his guys. On the other hand, Seattle might enjoy ruining Arizona's chances of getting a bye. Better not to take chances. Just beat the Packers and we'll call it good.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Arizona's In The Playoffs

I didn't even know Arizona was playing Thursday night until the game was down to its last five minutes. Still hard to adjust to the idea the NFL actually wants Arizona on in prime time. The game was tied, then Arizona kicked a field goal, the Vikings drove to about the Arizona 30, and on 3rd down, Dwight Freeney strip-sacked Teddy Bridgewater. Arizona 23, Minnesota 20. Playoff spot secured.

I can't fault the Vikings for trying for more yards. It was going to be a 47-yard field goal, no gimme. And Arizona had held the Vikings to 3 yards per carry exactly over the course of the game, so running wasn't the best bet. They just didn't pull it off. Arizona's secondary held up, and Bridgewater didn't throw it away.

It's hard to get too enthused over a 3-point win against a team that just finished getting obliterated by Seattle last weekend, but those Thursday games are frequently kind of screwy, so credit for not losing. I'm a little concerned about Bridgewater setting a career high in passing yards against them, especially with Blaine Gabbert having a 300 yard passing game against them a couple of weeks ago. Bridgewater isn't a bad QB, but Arizona's likely to face much better ones in the playoffs. Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson's been on fire lately. The positive thing to take away is that, like Gabbert, or even Drew Brees back in week 1, Bridgewater only threw one TD, and that's the most important thing. Giving up yards isn't ideal, but as long as they don't give up points, it isn't a deathblow.

David Johnson ran for 92 yards, following up a solid performance in the Rams' game. Mike Iupati caught a pass. Not sure what happened there, a deflection probably. Michael Floyd had a 100-yard receiving game. Tyrann Mathieu had 10 tackles, and the defense had three sacks and recovered three fumbles. Palmer had a 300-yard passing game of his own, with 2 TDs and no turnovers. Now Arizona gets a week and a half to prepare for the Eagles, and if they beat them, they clinch the NFC West. Which would be nice, with the Packers and Seahawks looming the final two weeks. Or Seattle could lose this weekend and speed the whole process up, that'd be fine, too.


Monday, December 07, 2015

Comfortable Wins OVer Bad Teams Are Better, Though

Arizona hadn't done that in awhile, though, what wins narrow wins over the likes of San Francisco, Baltimore, and Cleveland. Well, the Cleveland win wound up being comfortable, but they were down by double digits at one point. No such troubles here, as Arizona pounded the Rams 27-3. Nick Foles went 15 of 35 for less than 150 and 1 INT. Palmer went 26 of 40 for over 350 yards and 2 TDs. Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington didn't play. No problem, David Johnson, Kerwynn Williams, and Stefan Taylor combined for 33 carries and 178 yards. The defense held Todd Gurley to 41 yards on 9 carries. I know he hasn't been too productive lately, but he torched Arizona's D for something like 140 yards the last time they played, so it's nice to see them not let that happen again. John Brown and Michael Floyd each went over 100 yards receiving.

So Arizona's 10-2. This is good. I'm less happy that Seattle is hanging around back there, stubbornly refusing to lose any games. Considering they're still 3 games back with 4 games to play, the odds they'd catch Arizona are slim, but still in play. But the fact they stomped the Vikings, in Minnesota, is troubling. It suggests to me the Seahawks are figuring things out again, like they did last year. Which could make them really dangerous come playoff time. I figure they're going to get in whether they win the division or not. It's them and whoever doesn't win the North out of Green Bay or the Vikings as the wild cards, most likely. The Buccaneers are coming on a little too late, I think, and the NFC East is still a mediocre shitshow.

Hopefully Arizona can make their own statement by crushing the Vikings this weekend. I'll settle for another close win, though.