Saturday, October 07, 2006

Week 5 sucker bet

Kansas City @ Arizona +3.5

Right now the Arizona Cardinals are the least popular pick according to with over 70% of people on Kansas City. The Cardinals are a 1-3 team right now, with their lone win a 34-27 shootout against the lonley 49ers that broke in their new stadium. After their win, they lost divisonal games to Seattle and St. Louis, and were embarassed by the Falcons last week.

The Chiefs on the other hand are coming off a 41-0 romp off those same 49ers that played with the Cardinals. The Chiefs also lost an overtime game at denver, and lost to cincinatti in a game that they lost their quarterback.

I'm pretty familiar with the Arizona cardinals, as I watched almost every single one of their games last year, and I just got done watching the entire falcons/Cards game from last week over again before I finalized my pick. I actually spotted out a lot of important things about both the falcons and cardinals.

Before this season started, I was looking at arizona as a possible sleeper team. They have skilled position players on offense, they have a former MVP at QB, a hesiman trophy winner backing him up, an underrated defense, a proven coach, a proven kicker, a new statidum, and a weaker division. Things haven't turned out well thus far, but lets examine their season so far...

Week 1- They WON @ Home against San Fran.
Kurt Warner... 300+ yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, but 3 fumbles
even though they only beat San Fran you have to get excited with the 34 pts. they put up.
week 2- Lost @ Seattle
Kurt Warner... 231 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 4 fumbles
I have to discount the fact that they lost in seattle. No visitor won a game in seattle last year.
week 3- Lost @ home to St. Louis
Kurt Warner...250+ yards, 1 TD, 3 INT and 1 fumble
The cards did lose this game, but it was a close hard fought battle. They shut down stephen jackson, but Bulger threw for over 300 yards.
Week 4- Lost @ Atlanta
Kurt Warner had a horrible game and was pulled. Warner had 1 pick and 2 fumbles, he tripped over his own linemans feet, he had was rushed.
- Somewhere lost in the stats in this game, is that fact that BOTH defenses scored touchdowns, and the fact that the falcons were terrible in the redzone kicking 5 fieldgoals.

I watched at least half the falcons/cards game last week live ( I bet the over under), but I just sat down and watched the entire game before I finalized this pick. The Atlanta Falcons were honestly running a highschool or college offense. They ran option keepers, and they move their whole offensive line to the right, and either hand it off to Dunn, or run a naked bootleg with #7. The cards were for the most part NOT having the Left defensive end ( B. Berry) crash in, but to strafe sideways as if to defend that Vick bootleg.

There was an interesting play at the end of the first half where the Falcons were running that same play ( one of their favorites) inside the redzone near the goalline. The Cardinals had their middle and RIGHT OLB attack the right side of the line if Vick were to handoff the ball to Dunn, while the Left outside linebacker and left end tried to play vick and the bootleg. By the cardinals already having their assignments mapped out, their defense was very effective. I'd imagine other coaches in the NFL saw what I saw, and instead of everybody playing the ball in the future, they will already have their assignments mapped out. The middle and right linebackers will play the run, while the left DE, and OLB will automatically play the bootleg.

I was also very impressed with Matt Leinart. If anybody knows me, they know that I am NOT one to trust Young Quarterbacks ( but then again why trust Damon Huard). Matt leinart went 37-2 in college football. The guy was on the sidelines paying attention to the game, and doing everything you want of a backup quarterback ( high fiving guys, trying to hype people up etc.). The offense looked totally different with him in the game. He DID have a fumble when the line got knocked back into him, and he did throw a pick ( on a tipped ball), but pretty much everything else was flawless. They ran some quick high percentage plays for him early ( a quick throw out to fitzgerald), but he did also make some plays. I also noticed that it helped open up edge and the running game some. If you watched the game, you would see that NOTHING was really going well with Warner, but suddenly Leinart made a couple small plays and the falcons had to honor EVERYTHING. The annoucner was also talking about how well Leinart played against the bears in preseason. Granted it is only Preseason, but it was 4 days after signing his contract and ending a hold out. The guy is used to playing in big national championship type games, and he does have some talent surrounding him. I know it is almost a right of passage to lose your first game as a starter, but I am not so quick to take hand that loss to Matt Leinart against a career backup quarterback.

One thing that did bother me about the Cards was their offensive line. That line was terrible all of last year. They had the worst run game in the league, and it doesn't look any better this year even WITH edge james. People mistakenly call the cardinals line ' good" because they are the heaviest offensive line in the league. Denver could routinly have the lightest line in the league, and have a top notch run game because those guys pull, trap, and zone block... The cardinals did NONE of that. I guess arizona relies on their lineman just over powering opponenets, but that just doesn't happen. I watched every single offensive play for arizona and I did not ONCE see a lineman pull. Somebody needs to get through to their coaching staff, and change the WAY their line blocks. People automatically assume that a bad line just needs to be replaced, but maybe these guys need to change their philosophies. A heavy line also isn't always effective in the passing game because sometimes thos big guys can't move their feet quick enough.... but like I said, the running game did start to open up when Leinart was hitting those quick throws.

I am not a big fan of staring young quarterbacks. I think they should sit and wait their turn, until they can be presented with a win-able situation. Kurt Warner has played horrible thus far and Leinart actually gives them a better chance to win. Warner has been a fumble machine, and has made numerous other mistakes. I know he really only got good action on that one drive, but the difference looked like night and day.

This week the cards defense is matched up against a more traditional offense in Kansas city. I like how they just came off a blowout win, and people are looking to play the cheifs. Here are some things to remember...

Damon Huard is their starting Quarterback. The guy didn't sit on the bench for almost a decade for no reason... I know it is easy to forget the cheifs problems after a 41-0 win, but let me remind you...

- Damon Huard had 2 fumbles in relif against the bengals, and he had 2 fumbles against the broncos.
- LJ couldn't run the ball agains the bengals and their weakness.
- 2-3 years ago, the chiefs had about the worst defense in all of pro football. Last year they started just blitzing the house. They probably did improve some, but I am not quick to annoint them even an average defense yet. Do you really like that front 7? I know I don't.

This game will more resemble the game the Cards loss to St Louis. by 2 points than any of the other games they have played. In that game they shut down Stephen Jackson, but got burned by Marc Bulger. I think if there is any runningback and line to compare Larry Johnson to, it would be Stephen Jackson. They are both bigger backs, behind moderate lines. The main difference I see, is that Marc Bulger beat the Cards, were as Damon Huard will probably have more of a game manager type role. I also like the fact that in 2 of his 3 starts, he fumbled twice. I don't see LJ running wild, and I don't see Huard putting up a bulger type performance as the cards ARE better at home....

I think the game plan for Leinart, will probably be more of a game manager type role as well, but I also believe Denny Green will also have some "calculated risks" put into the gameplan ( for example maybe a few jump balls for Larry Fitz), or maybe a play action to go deep after a turnover etc... I think in general however, Leinart will also have a conservative gameplay ( but the running game should be more effective). The Falcons Defense in Atlanta, is better than the Chiefs defense in Phoenix. The Chiefs defense also had the easier task of being at home and facing the road 49ers last week.

I know I am not the only one who thought Arizona would be better this year. What if before this season started, I gave you the opportunity of taking Arizona at home +3.5 against a chiefs team with Damon Huard starting at Quarterback? I'll bet you that 70% percent of people wouldn't like the chiefs back in september in that situation, but a 41-0 romping and an arizona loss, and people are all about the cheifs.

I am on the unpopular Home Dog in Arizona. I don't like young quarterbacks, but Matt Leinart probably hasn't lost more than 5 games he started in his life. With a modest offensive game plan that mixes things up, and a shut down LJ task on defense, that the USC golden boy wins his first start.

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