Wednesday before the Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on December 9, 2015 – 3:56 pm

The closing stretch for the Cardinals makes everyone take notice. Sure, the Cards are home for three of the four games, but thanks to the Eagles’ upset of the Patriots last weekend, every opponent is in playoff contention.

“Makes it real easy to practice every week,” coach Bruce Arians said. “I don’t have to say (expletive).”

Next week is “Sunday Night Football” in Philadelphia. The last two games are home games against the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. And tomorrow, of course, is “Thursday Night Football” against the Vikings.

(For the many wondering about a flex to SNF for the Packers game, it seemed unlikely after the Cards’ game in Philly was switched and in fact, Arians said he’s hearing it will stay as an afternoon game. “I don’t think FOX is giving that one up,” Arians said.)

— The Cardinals, by the way, clinch a playoff spot with a win. They clinch the NFC West if they win (or tie) and the Seahawks lose in Baltimore Sunday.

— Arians said the Cards have three padded practices left this season but he isn’t sure if he will use them, or when. The most important thing is keeping players fresh at this point.

— Adrian Peterson can be a scary matchup. But even if he gets loose a little, it’s hard to imagine the Vikings having enough offense to hang with the Cards – assuming the Cardinals play as they are capable and don’t turn the ball over. The Vikings are missing four defensive starters. Advantage, Carson Palmer.

— Larry Fitzgerald this week, when I asked him about this receiving corps compared to 2008’s Fitz-in-his-prime, Q-in-his-prime, Steve Breaston group, said it’s the versatility that is so much different. Fitz is a better wide receiver in terms of knowledge and range these days. And while Brown and Nelson and Floyd are the deep threats, what strikes me about this group is the fact that Fitz could still go deep if needed. And Smokey Brown or even Nelson have shown they can go over the middle.

All that said, Fitz is satisfied right now of his role and why he has his role (setting a pace to set career-highs in catches and yards doesn’t hurt.)

“I can still go down and make plays,” Fitzgerald said. “But the fact is Mike and Smoke and JJ are much faster than I am at this point. They can get behind the defense easier.

“Everyone is comfortable in their roles and I think everyone is genuinely happy when they have success. We’re a close-knit group.”

That happens when you are throwing for at least 350 yards a game and everyone gets their bite at the apple.

— Adrian Peterson, by the way, drew some attention this week when he said the Vikings, among other things, were outcoached in their blowout loss to Seattle last week. Peterson didn’t see his criticism as a big deal, and actually made a good point about it.

“When the players don’t play well, or a guy throws an interception, or a guy fumbles, or a guy gives up a sack, or the defense doesn’t play well, it’s so quick for people to say, ‘Oh, the defense didn’t play well,’ or ‘This guy threw an interception at a critical time,’ ” Peterson said. “Like, that’s always OK. But, then when someone mentions something about coaches and being outcoached, it’s always like a big issue. To me, it’s not a big issue. We are a team, so we win together and we lose together. And we lost together, you know? We didn’t play well as players and the coaches didn’t coach well.”

— New safety D.J. Swearinger, who was signed to the practice squad when running back Chris Johnson was put on injured reserve, was promoted to the active roster when guard Earl Watford was put on IR this week and Arians said Swearinger will have a role in the defense. True, Tony Jefferson might not be able to go (or be limited) with a hamstring issue, but either way, Arians said Swearinger – a former second-round pick of the Texans – will have a defensive role.

— There is a toy drive at the game Thursday. If you are attending, please bring a new or gently used toy to any of the stadium entrances.

— John Brown hurt his hamstring way back in the Detroit game Oct. 11. He is still listed on the injury report as the Cardinals try to protect him, but Smokey is just about healthy. He showed that in his 68-yard bomb last week in St. Louis. And even with the injury, and a game he didn’t play in Cleveland and being slowed other times, Brown is just 183 yards shy of 1,000 this season.

— Excellent video of the quarterbacks getting their coach, Freddie Kitchens, a former Alabama signal-caller, to run a 40-yard dash.

— Set the DVR: “Bruce Arians: A Football Life” will debut on NFL Network Friday at 7 p.m. Arizona time, 9 p.m. Eastern.

— Speaking of TV, yes, the Vikings game will be on the NFL Network, but locally it will also be on CBS, Ch. 5, in the Valley.

— Interesting story in the Wall Street Journal, ranking the 10 most “unwatchable” teams in the NFL this season based on eight factors, such as fair catches, fewest big plays, pre-snap penalties, things like that. (The Colts topped the list.) No, the Cardinals aren’t in there, but I did notice that the Cardinals lead the league in a couple of their categories – most failed challenges of replay, and most rushes for no gain.

— One final anecdote: Rookie running back David Johnson had a good first start last week (Arians said he’d get 25 touches, D.J. ended up with 24) as the Cards rushed for 175 yards. Johnson came out late to give Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor some work, and it cost him a 100-yard game. Johnson finished with 99 yards on 20 carries.

The funny thing is, Johnson not only knew he was close to 100 yards, he actually thought he got it – to the point where he took the ball and brought it to the sideline so he could have a memento.

Guess he’ll have to do it all over again. The Vikings await.


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20 Responses to “Wednesday before the Vikings”

  1. By D on Dec 9, 2015 | Reply

    I am getting fired up for tomorrow. True, the defense needs to contain AP, but I have a feeling there will be more bombs dropping in Univ of PHX stadium tomorrow than over the Middle East right now.
    Grip it and Rip it..BA has to be giddy…

  2. By Mike G on Dec 9, 2015 | Reply

    YO– Darren–Hope all is good! Looking forward to the game tomorrow! The final four games should be interesting. I’m glad the game against Minny is at home–that should be an advantage for the Cards with these Thursday games. If the Cards play like they did against the Rams last week–they should be in good shape. I think the Card’s D should really key on the run this week. Hey Darren–Do you think Zimmer will try to feed Peterson the ball more than usual given the fact he called out the coaching staff & had only 8 carries in last weeks game?????

  3. By Darren Urban on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    Mike G —

    RE: Peterson

    Depends on how the game goes. Peterson already gets 25 carries a game usually, so how much more could he reasonably get?

  4. By Omar on Dec 9, 2015 | Reply

    After this game AP and Bridgewater will be water under the bridge. On to the Super Bowl!!

  5. By Scott H on Dec 9, 2015 | Reply

    Some interesting tidbits…the Vikings have not beaten a winning team this year. And how important is what AP does? When he has had more than 100 yards rushing in a game this year, the Vikings are 6-0. When he rushes for 98 yards or less, the Vikings are 1-4. Will his stats tomorrow night determine the outcome? Probably not. But bottom line, this team runs through him. When they can keep it close and keep him active, it is a problem. Take an early lead and reduce their ability to stay run-first? Good for the Cardinals. And they can absolutely make that happen.

    But here is a valid concern – we had guys like Gurley and Gio Bernard have big games against us. One was a loss, the other was not because Carson Palmer and the passing game was too much for the Bengals to overcome. And now, AP, one of the best RB’s of all time, still going strong. Containing him is THE key.

    What I would love to see is another smooth, systematic, business-like game that the Cardinals control from start to finish. Put the Vikings in a hole early and never let them see a glimmer of hope. Put this game on the shoulders of Bridgewater and it should be on its way to being over. Another game where they so efficiently dispose of a team like they did the Rams would be a good groove to get into as we enter the stretch run.

    When I read here that the Cardinals would clinch a playoff-spot with a win, I stopped in my tracks – and gasped in horror! Too many un-pleasant reminders of last season – when we clinched a playoff spot with a win against the Rams, on a THURSDAY NIGHT, but lost Drew Stanton and, in effect, any chance we had from that moment on. Man, that was painful….to make the playoffs and be reduced to a team that had no shot within minutes of each other. Ugh.

    But, never mind that. That’s not going to happen ( is it?? ).

    Another interesting tidbit is the fact that Arians has been one of THE best coaches in the NFL over the last 4 games of the season during his career in Arizona.

    I don’t want the opponent to really matter tomorrow night. I want to see the Cardinals play the way they SHOULD play against a team that is clearly not as good as they are. They do that? And it really WON’T matter who the opponent is.

    Let’s keep the prime-time magic rolling! I’m not working Friday and I am SO ready for another blissful day off after a win! 🙂

  6. By shane on Dec 9, 2015 | Reply

    if the cards win Thursday wont that Philly game be for the nfc west? because im pretty sure that makes it impossible for the hawks to match the cards record .

  7. By Darren Urban on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    Shane —

    RE: NFC West

    If the Cards beat the Vikings, the Cards clinch the division if the Seahawks lose Sunday. If they don’t lose, then yes, Philly means the division — unless the Seahawks lose that week first.

  8. By Sir60 on Dec 9, 2015 | Reply

    O-line play was outstanding against the Rams. If that keeps up against the Vikings, DJ will easily get his 100.

  9. By Chuck 1 on Dec 9, 2015 | Reply

    Is “our” Marine deployed again???
    Haven’t seen his posts for a long time.

  10. By Dr. G. on Dec 9, 2015 | Reply

    In the news… I’m thinking Adrian Peterson has a secret wish he was a Cardinal after all the ado this year. It was my wish as well, however, we have been rewarded with David Johnson’s arrival, and for a great deal. ((Keim, yep!))

    In the long run, we may just have the RB we have all day-dreamed about for a long time. He may deserve a little more coin next Spring.

    AP may not have his heart in it Thursday; no reason for any vengeful resentment on his part since our fans rooted for him. I don’t expect anything over the top by him.

    GO CARDINALS..!!! Our fans have become the best…!

  11. By John The Draft Guy on Dec 9, 2015 | Reply

    OK , Has everyone seen the commercial for the Thursday Night game on NFL Network?

    It features Kurt Warner saying he is ready to come back (obvious a joke).
    It got me thinking.

    Darren, and anyone else, if you could have 2008 version of Warner, or Carson Palmer right now, who would you take?

  12. By Darren Urban on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Palmer vs Warner

    Good question.

    I don’t think you go wrong with either. But I’d want it in this offense, not the 2008 one with a sporadic running game.

  13. By rod on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    Thanks for the piece Darren.

    Go Cardinals !!

    David Johnson is a stud already and he’s only going to get better! We’ve got our workhorse.

  14. By dan on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    Love the Swearinger signing………dude can ball, needs to lay off hits on defenseless players……he should pack on about 20lbs and play LB.

  15. By Scott H on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    Am hearing that some key defensive guys will be out for the Vikings tonite. OK. Shouldn’t matter. We should be ready, willing, and able to take care of business regardless of who is on the field.

    Let’s get the win and stay healthy with a long rest coming up.

    Darren – do you know, are there any plans for the team to come east early to prepare for the Eagles? This area is supposed to have spring-like weather THIS weekend….hope some of that comes around again the following weekend.

  16. By Darren Urban on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    Scott H —

    RE: Eagles

    Originally the team was coming Friday to Philly, but with the game moved to Sunday night, we will fly out Saturday.

    As for temps, the site I checked indeed had slightly warmer temps this month — and of course, the coldest day of the month is projected to be Dec. 20, the day of the game.

  17. By Scott H on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    Geez, for those waiting for Seattle to lose a game? Don’t count on it any time soon. Their next 3 opponents are the Ravens, Browns, and Rams. With the way they have been coming on? I don’t see it. The only good team left on their schedule is us! And who knows what that game will mean by then?

    The Cardinals will have to – and should – win the West by taking care of business on their end. The way it should be!

  18. By NJAzCardsFan on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    Darren- Any thought to how good this offense would be with Kurt???

    Or the 2008 Cards with this Defense?

    I hate to admit it… while Warner was great in 2008-9 and definitely changed the attitude of the Cards to a winning one, I think Palmer is actually better now….

    Bettcher is good as Bowles maybe even a little better at this point….

  19. By Darren Urban on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    NJAz —

    RE: Warner/Palmer

    I think any good quarterback would have a chance to flourish in this offense.

  20. By faster on Dec 10, 2015 | Reply

    warner 08 vs. palmer 15?

    warner, not because i think, he is that much better, but because of their injuryhistory. and if you ask me later, before the first playoff game, i would take warner again, because he has had sensational playoff numbers.
    but i hope, carson palmer will tie this numbers this season 🙂

    and now to the game today, the first game this season, where i beleive it is a must win game. it would make the last three games a lot easier, if we win today.

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