The Arizona Cardinals have done a convincing job of sailing beneath the radar this season, happy to let such teams as the Packers and the Panthers take all of the press. However, the Cardinals have one of the best defenses in the NFL, ranking #5 in yards permitted during the regular season, plus they have been favorites in most games throughout online betting sites. It’s true that defensive back Tyrann Mathieu went down with a knee injury late in the season, but the Cardinals have been mostly solid on passing defense since then (although those two late bombs they let Aaron Rodgers throw last week have to be a little bit worrisome for the Cards faithful).
Can other Teams run on the Cardinals?
It’s true — the Cardinals gave up 381 yards on the ground in their last three games. However, one of those games (Week 17) was a rout at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, a game that the Cardinals used to rest Carson Palmer for the second half and could not use to advance to the #1 seed in the playoffs — and the loss did not take away their bye in the wild card round. So that’s a bit of a distortion. In Week 16, the Cardinals were busy routing the Green Bay Packers, and in the divisional round, they saw the Packers again, but it was the passing game that gave them the most fits. So it looks like you can believe in the front seven of the Cardinals.
Is the Passing Defense really that Weak?
Aaron Rodgers has made a career of gunning footballs into tight windows his whole career, and the Green Bay Packers have always been contenders as a result. The Cardinals also have been harassing passers all year long, as their rush is led by Dwight Feeney, an outside linebacker who the team basically picked up off the street, only to see him lead the team with eight sacks in the last 11 contests. So if Cam Newton can’t get rid of the ball early, he could spend a lot of the game running for his life. That could play into his hands, though, as his legs are a big part of the Panthers’ attack. It will be crucial for the Cardinals to make sure that their ends don’t rush past Newton but instead keep him in front of them and between them, containing him as they collapse the pocket. If they can do that, their coverage is solid enough (and the Panthers’ receiving corps is average enough) to make this a long day for Newton — especially if the unit loses focus.