The defensive line is thin today, but the Cardinals will have safety Deone Bucannon (coming off concussion symptoms) active, as well as cornerback Patrick Peterson on defense. On offense, Ted Larsen will stay at right guard with Jonathan Cooper still out, but receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring) is playing as expected.
The defensive line will need newcomer Red Bryant to be a factor and Calais Campbell will probably be leaned on to play more than usual. The full inactive list:
— QB Matt Barkley
— LB Shaq Riddick
— G Jonathan Cooper (knee)
— T D.J. Humphries
— DT Cory Redding (ankle)
— DT Ed Stinson (groin)
— DT Frostee Rucker (ankle)
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It’s hard not to talk about the points.
The Cardinals lead the NFL in points scored, in case you hadn’t heard. They also have a league-high 176 points on the road – with still three road games left – this season, with their 22 road TDs five more than the rest of the field (Cincinnati is second with 17). They just happen to be visiting San Francisco this weekend, to play a 49ers team that they happened to score a season-high 47 points against earlier this season.
So why is it, when talking to the players or coaches, they always seem to be a bit irritated with how the Cardinals play offense? It’s simple, really. They get ticked when they don’t convert a third down, when they have a red-zone hiccup, when they turn the ball over. Perfecting the “nuances,” as Larry Fitzgerald called them.
“Scary to think if we do, how many points we could score,” Fitzgerald said.
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was being asked about the running game and it needing to be more consistent. Even though the Cards have run it fine and again, most points in the league.
“It’s something good for me to get pissed off about,” Goodwin said. “Leaving points out there.”
Goodwin, and Bruce Arians, and everyone else, knows what they have (assuming Carson Palmer is healthy): A deep offense capable of scoring with a great many options, and a quarterback who knows how to make it all run.
“As long as the offensive line protects, we can dice anyone up in this league,” Goodwin said. “I stand on solid ground when I say that.”
— The Cardinals had a long injury list when the week began, but realistically, they aren’t going to be as short-handed as thought. Patrick Peterson looks like he’s going to play, receivers Michael Floyd and John Brown (Brown is “probable” for the first time in a while) both should be on the field and while they are down a couple of defensive lineman, the addition of Red Bryant should help.
— The idea of sitting players because it’s “just the 49ers” is never going to fly, by the way. The Cardinals need all these wins. If you are healthy enough to play, you play. If you aren’t, you don’t. Could that change in Week 17 if the Cards are locked into their playoff position? Sure. But not with six games left.
— Fitzgerald needs 74 yards to reach 1,000 yards receiving in a season for the first time since 2011. That’s been a pretty long drought too.
— Markus Golden already had started a couple of games when Alex Okafor was out, but that starting job is his for good now that LaMarr Woodley is out for the season. Golden is turning out to have the greatest impact from the draft class, with all due respect to Rodney Gunter and David Johnson. Profootballfocus.com has him among the top 10 rookies in the league, and he’s on his way to being a key part of this defense the next few years.
“Since the beginning of the season I’m way better,” Golden said. “I’m more focused, and I’m not thinking as much.”
— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said he loves the outside linebacker rotation, even with the Woodley loss. In a perfect world, he said, those guys would have snap counts in the 20s, although he said he was OK with veteran Dwight Freeney around 30 or 35 snaps.
— S Deone Bucannon was fined $23,152 for his unflagged helmet-to-helmet hit on Bengals receiver A.J. Green last week. It was a surprise the play didn’t draw a penalty. Could that have been the source of the concussion Bucannon suffered?
— One name that could appear now with Woodley out is rookie Shaq Riddick, who has been inactive every game. “We think he’s a guy who is going to be in the mix, could be this weekend, maybe the future,” Bettcher said.
— This will be Mike Iupati’s first game against his former team. If you recall, there was a chance Iupati, coming off training camp knee surgery, would debut against the 49ers, but he wasn’t quite ready that week. He admitted the game will have meaning for him.
“I do care about them,” said Iupati, who spent five seasons in San Francisco. “They are having a tough season. But that’s how it is. It’s football. I don’t know what’s going on over there.”
— The Cards have had a 100-yard receiver in six straight games against the 49ers – either Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd. Floyd in particular has done well in San Francisco. Perhaps he can get there again.
— Both Arians and Goodwin were hoping that the running game will find its way back after a couple of off games versus two good front sevens against the Seahawks and Bengals. The coaches are hoping for more steady plays – four yards every play, rather than getting one looking for a big one. It’s a concept running back Chris Johnson admitted isn’t always easy.
“Being the type of player I am, the type of back I am who is so used to breaking the long runs, getting big gains,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of tough being patient and waiting on it. It’s the sort of thing where you’ve got to understand the gameplan of the week and you’ve got to stick to it.”
— Johnson also said at age 30, the maintenance needed to stay ready at this point (he’s averaging 24 carries the past three games) is crucial.
“You’ve got to put more time in as far as off the field,” Johnson said, referring to massages and the training room. “You put more time in and you’ll be OK when Sunday gets here.”
— Crazy to think the Cards have had more trouble winning in San Francisco than Seattle. But a win this weekend, and the Cardinals are 3-1 in the NFC West. If there is anything Arians has yet to accomplish, it’s a winning record within the division. That’s something they’d like to check off the list.
Tags: 49ers, Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, Deone Bucannon, Harold Goodwin, James Bettcher, LaMarr Woodley, Larry Fitzgerald, Markus Golden, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Patrick Peterson, Shaq Riddick
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It’s that time of year. You can tell from the injury report — it’s the longest it’s been all season this week, and that addition of safety Deone Bucannon on Thanksgiving with a concussion makes you pause — and Bruce Arians said earlier this week the Cardinals were going without pads heading into the 49ers game. It only makes sense, as banged up as they are.
There are other places where they are going to be careful. That includes the passes thrown by Carson Palmer in practice. You don’t want to have the quarterback’s arm fade when you conceivably could still have as many as nine or 10 games left to play. Palmer only played six games last season, so he’s already thrown well beyond what he did last year (224 attempts in 2014, 339 attempts this season), although he is in great shape — and that includes his arm.
Nevertheless, Palmer acknowledged there will be fewer throws during the week.
“That’s something completely not in my wheelhouse,” Palmer said. “(Strength and conditioning coach) Buddy Morris is as smart of a guy in that department. He’s been studying it a long time. He understands mechanics. He understands the velocity of throws. He uses all these big words that I’m not even going to get into. He’s a researcher and he’s done a ton of research. Your age, your number of years, how many throws you have typically thrown this time of year or that time of year; whatever it is. There’s an equation he’s drawn out and there’s a certain number of throws we’ll hit, but I don’t get into that. I just do whatever he tells me.”
The Cardinals have been careful at practice in multiple areas. Morris had already put in place a harness system that measures the steps of each skill guy, as to make sure they aren’t running too much in practice. This is just another example of what Bruce Arians likes to call “sports science,” and Palmer isn’t going to argue.
“I’m trusting a professional,” Palmer said. “Buddy is as good as they get. He’s as good as they come in this league. I’ve been around a bunch of great strength coaches, but Buddy is hands down the best. He’s very focused. He’s very concerned with it. It takes up a lot of his day because he’s always talking about it, but I love having a guy like that on our side.”
Tags: Buddy Morris, Carson Palmer, Deone Bucannon
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The Cardinals continue to do well in Pro Bowl voting (which you can do yourself by clicking here or going to azcardinals.com/probowl. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has dropped out of the overall top 10, but quarterback Carson Palmer remains there, seventh overall and the fifth quarterback. Fitzgerald is now fourth among wide receivers, behind Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones.
The top Cardinal at a position remains free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is still second among his position, 14,000 votes or so behind Carolina’s Kurt Coleman (the Panthers have a fanbase dedicated to the voting; they rank high at most positions.) The other Cardinals ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions:
— RB Chris Johnson is fifth.
— Mike Iupati fell to sixth among guards.
— DT Calais Campbell is fifth.
— CB Patrick Peterson is fourth.
— Rashad Johnson is sixth and Deone Bucannon is eighth among strong safeties.
— David Johnson is 10th among kick returners.
— Justin Bethel is fourth for special teamers.
Pro Bowl voting continues through Dec. 15.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Deone Bucannon, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Iupati, Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowl voting, Rashad Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Time to set the DVR for Dec. 11 on the NFL Network. The ongoing series “A Football Life” will feature Bruce Arians, who as we all know has a fascinating story and is pretty interesting to boot. Plus the trailer looks pretty good too.
I don’t know how many chances there will be to give the Cool Uncle flavor during the broadcast, but we all know how good B.A. can be. Plus he’s winning yet again, and people love to hear from him. This should be a great show.
Tags: Bruce Arians, NFL Network
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The Cardinals have made it through their “Sunday Night Football” gauntlet of two weeks running. They have at least one more primetime game — their next home game is on “Thursday Night Football” against the Minnesota Vikings. But that might not be the only one. Their games down the stretch might mean something. Whether those games will be free to flex is another story.
As of right now, the game that would make the most sense to flex to “Sunday Night Football” would be the Dec. 27 home game against the Green Bay Packers. Two good teams, likely with something on the line as the Packers battle the Vikings for the NFC North title and with both teams possibly fighting for a first-round bye. Meanwhile, the scheduled “Sunday Night Football” game is Pittsburgh at Baltimore, normally a lock to stay there with such a great rivalry. But the Ravens have lost quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Terrell Suggs all with season-ending injuries. They are struggling anyway. It’s not going to be the same.
Even if Cardinals-Packers makes sense, though, it’s far from a guarantee, because Fox has the ability to protect a game that week and Cards-Pack would seem a natural one to keep. It has national interest, and it’s a good game. The Panthers play the Falcons that week, so it might be worthy of Fox’s protection too — in fact, whichever one Fox doesn’t protect becomes a strong candidate to be flexed. (The Patriots play the Jets that week, but the Jets are fading fast.)
As for Week 17, which doesn’t have a named “Sunday Night Football” matchup — NBC gets to pick a game with playoff implications — the Cardinals and Seahawks is possible, but I’m guessing the NFC West will have been determined by then and there will be other games that mean more (Washington-Dallas? Minnesota-Green Bay? Philly-Giants?)
Tags: Falcons, Flex scheduling, FOX, Packers, Pathers, Ravens, Steelers, Sunday Night Football, Vikings
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Before Patrick Peterson got hurt Sunday night, he was once again playing excellent cornerback, making life very hard for Bengals start wide receiver A.J. Green. Then he hurt his ankle, and General Manager Steve Keim said Monday morning on his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports that he had no new news and that Peterson was getting an MRI. But just listening to Keim, it drives home the critical nature of having Peterson — or potentially not having him — in the lineup.
“Last year, some of the concerns with Patrick … (were) issues with consistency,” Keim said. “A lot of it had to do with playing weight. He came back in phenomenal shape. Now his level of consistency, he’s taken to a whole different level.” And that’s even putting Peterson in “some really tough positions” on an island so the defense can do things elsewhere on the field.
If Peterson can’t go, the most likely scenario is Justin Bethel stepping in to the lineup and the Cardinals using former Arizona State corner Robert Nelson Jr., who has been on the roster but inactive the last two games. Nelson played for the Browns a little last season.
Other Keim thoughts from the win over the Bengals:
— The storyline that excited Keim the most (perhaps not all that surprisingly) was the big game from the rookie class. Led by J.J. Nelson and Markus Golden, the draftees were good, and that’s with No. 1 pick D.J. Humphries still inactive.
— The turnaround in the game started with Carson Palmer, Keim said, but he also said the Cardinals’ offensive line finally starting matching the intensity and physicality of the Bengals’ defensive line in the second half.
— Keim noted that defensive coordinator James Bettcher did a nice job dialing up some pressure on Bengals QB Andy Dalton, but it also left the Cards susceptible to mismatches — notably linebacker Kevin Minter trying to cover quick running back Gio Bernard. (That didn’t go so well most of the night.)
The Cardinals are talented, and Keim has noticed all the national analysts suggesting the Cardinals might have the most talented roster in the league. But “all I see is holes,” he said. “Areas where we need to improve, where we need to get better.” Not shockingly, those start up front — a better pass rush, and more consistency in pass protection.
— As for the national attention that’s beginning to build, “you have to embrace it when you consider where we’ve come from,” he said.
— The record of 8-2 is nice, Keim said, but it’s nothing right now.
“We haven’t arrived,” Keim said. “We haven’t won any championships yet. Last year was a great lesson for us, starting 9-1 and having things crumble away.”
Tags: Carson Palmer, J.J. Nelson, James Bettcher, Markus Golden, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim
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There was more dancing for the Cardinals on a Sunday night. It doesn’t look like it’ll go viral, but that doesn’t mean that Smokey Brown’s post-TD celebration didn’t harken back to Drew Stanton’s shimmy-heard-round-the-world from last week.
“I had to bring it back,” Brown said. “I was in a little competition with Drew, but I didn’t want to tell him. I had to get my fans back.”
This is how it works when you win. Brown is still hurting with his bad hamstring, but he had three catches (and two jet sweeps) against the Bengals, and said his leg doesn’t hurt as much now as it did in Seattle. Winning always helps the pain. The Cardinals didn’t have Michael Floyd, but no worries, J.J. Nelson steps in with four catches for 142 yards and this team’s receiving depth is just underscored again.
Part of that is the quarterback, of course. Carson Palmer threw two bad first-quarter interceptions, and he knew it. But at the end of the night, he had four touchdown passes, and that doesn’t include the cool-as-a-cucumber, less-than-a-minute-left field-goal drive that he deftly orchestrated. That is why this team has so much faith in Palmer (and why I’m left shaking my head at the few fans who seem ready to hammer him with any early mistake.) It’s hard to believe any team who wouldn’t want him right now. Maybe the Patriots. The Panthers. Probably the Packers. Everyone else? They could use CP3.
Meanwhile, this team is 8-2 and opened the brutal second-half schedule with two wins against two playoff-worthy teams.
— It was a breakout night for the draft class. Markus Golden had a strip-sack. Nelson was great. Rodney Gunter had a sack. David Johnson had a TD catch. This is the time of year the Cardinals will need those guys.
— It would not be good, with Cory Redding down, if Frostee Rucker’s ankle injury kept him out. Rucker has been fantastic this season. But the hold-the-breath moment has to be with cornerback Patrick Peterson. No way to know how bad he’s hurt, and he wasn’t around to talk after. He’s having by far his best season as a cornerback. As much as there is belief in Justin Bethel, an extended Peterson absence would be bad news.
— I totally understand the Bengals not being happy with the final unsportsmanlike penalty call for barking the cadence. But I also like that they threw in that it shouldn’t have come to that. Way too easy for the Cards to complete three long passes in that situation. Palmer-to-Fitz seemed like the obvious go-to, yet twice it got big yards.
— Linebacker Kevin Minter was mad at himself for how Bengals running back Gio Bernard got off for 128 yards on eight catches. Minter said he should have played better technique in coverage. But that’s definitely a matchup that does not favor the Cardinals, technique or no.
— The Bengals had allowed exactly 10 points in each of their previous three games. The Cardinals scored 34, 10 more than the worst Cincinnati defensive performance previous this season.
— Getting Chandler Catanzaro a game-winning kick for the first time (pictured below) will be helpful down the road. A miss wouldn’t have meant a loss, necessarily, but that’s the first time Cat-Man has had to do that, and experience matters.
— Two exciting, nationally televised games in a row, both wins. Now comes a road game in San Francisco, against a struggling 49ers team and Blaine Gabbert. This week the story will be about not letting down, because the Cardinals will be heavy favorites.
“Bruce will tell us we haven’t done anything yet,” Palmer said. “I know that’s coming. He’s keeping us grounded, which is exactly what a great had coach does.”
Tags: 49ers, Bengals, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, David Johnson, Gio Bernard, J.J. Nelson, John Brown, Kevin Minter, Markus Golden, Rodney Gunter
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It turns out that no, wide receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring) cannot play tonight. He is inactive. But yes, John “Smokey” Brown is active with his sore hamstring. So the Cardinals have one of their two gimpy wide receivers. Health plays a big part in this week’s inactives — rookie nose tackle Xavier Williams is playing this week. Right guard Jonathan Cooper (knee), who was doubtful, is not. In Cooper’s place, Ted Larsen will start.
The full inactive list:
— QB Matt Barkley
— WR Michael Floyd (hamstring)
— CB Robert Nelson Jr.
— LB Shaq Riddick
— G Jonathan Cooper (knee)
— T D.J. Humphries
— DT Cory Redding (ankle)
For the Bengals, their best cornerback, Pacman Jones, is inactive with a foot injury.
Tags: Bengals, inactives, John Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Michael Floyd, Pacman Jones, Ted Larsen, Xavier Williams
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This will be short and sweet, because given the fact linebacker Daryl Washington has not been reinstated pretty much pointed this way, but Fox’s Jay Glazer said this morning on the network’s pregame show that Washington has “continued to have violations” in the NFL’s drug program while suspended under the policy of substances of abuse. Glazer also said some fear Washington’s career could be over. Again, I don’t think that should surprise anyone following this situation.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals have 2014 No. 1 draft pick Deone Bucannon doing a nice job in the inside linebacker spot that Washington used to man, the Cardinals currently have the No. 3-ranked defense in the NFL and the Cards are 7-2 and in first place in the NFC West. They host the Bengals tonight on “Sunday Night Football.”
Tags: Daryl Washington, Jay Glazer
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