The term “must-win” always creates a sticky situation, unless, you know, a team must win – think, oh, the Atlanta Braves the other night after the St. Louis Cardinals won. That was a must-win. The Cardinals aren’t playing a must-win Sunday against the Giants, because the bottom line is that worst-case scenario, they would only be two games behind the 49ers in the division with 12 to play, and two games left with San Francisco. Logically, nothing is over with a loss.
Obviously, there is a sense of urgency, however, especially after the Cards came up short – painfully so – in Seattle. That was one I thought was going to be a victory, and I am pretty sure I’m not the only one. The Giants are coming off an impressive win in Philadelphia, and they are going to have defensive end Osi Umenyiora back. The momentum is on their side, especially after the Cards sputtered in the Northwest.
But oftentimes, these are the early-season home games the Cards somehow seem to win — the Steelers in 2007, the undefeated Bills in 2008 (and the Cowboys the next week), the Saints last year.
The ebb and flow of a football season can mess with emotions, especially with a week between games. The grind has a long way to go. Beating the Giants changes the vibe considerably, however, compared to the alternative – which would be a 1-3 record.
— This will be a big test for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Kolb said this week he felt like he took a step back in Seattle. Taking a step forward – against the Giants’ pass rush – isn’t an easy task. I expect, after the second-half issues with Fitz, that the Cards will work very hard to get Larry Fitzgerald consistently involved. Kolb is very aware of what the Giants’ defense is all about, having studied them as a division opponent his first four seasons (although he’s never played against them) and he got a chance to talk to Michael Vick earlier this week. Wonder if Vick was able to give him any pointers.
— Interesting to hear today that O’Brien Schofield will wear a wristband to make sure he knows the defensive plays. If that’s what it takes to get Schofield on the field more often, that’s fine. It’s not about pride, it’s about results no matter how it is accomplished.
— It sure seems Beanie Wells will be back carrying the ball this week. You got the vibe last week Wells wouldn’t be able to go and he didn’t. It’s the other way this week. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off. The Cards need that. A side boost from LaRod Stephens-Howling wouldn’t hurt either.
— It’s been two seasons, but the last time the Cards had a shot at Eli Manning, they made Manning look very ordinary up in New York in 2009 on “Sunday Night Football.” That was a game where the defense and Wells shined, more than being a Kurt Warner production. I would think that would have to be the recipe again. Tom Coughlin is conservative. If the Cards can force a couple of turnovers, I think they will be OK. If not …
— As nasty as the hit by Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor was on Todd Heap last Sunday, it may not have been illegal. That seems to be the sentiment from the NFL after Chancellor was not fined.
— The game is a sellout, of course. On TV locally, but more importantly, loud for the home team in theory. After two straight on the road, that will make a difference.
— Interesting stats from Profootballfocus.com, as they grade out the offensive lines thus far as far as pass protection. They make the point that how quickly the quarterbacks release the ball isn’t factored into the equation yet, but the Cards – by their metrics – are 29th in the league, and every offense lineman except for guard Rex Hadnot is in their bottom rankings.
— The Giants still use running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs so well. Slowing them is the key – defensive coordinator Ray Horton said as much – as long as the Cards don’t let Hakeem Nicks get deep.
— Why does this feel like a game where Darnell Dockett makes the highlights?
Remember, it’s the breast cancer awareness game, as well as alternate uniform game. So be sure to wear your best pink-and-black combo, and we’ll see if the Cardinals can get back to .500 and steady the ship a bit.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Eli Manning, Giants, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, O'Brien Schofield, Todd Heap
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