Cleat Geeks

Arians Looking to Make History

Sitting in a tie with Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is one win away from becoming the winningest coach in the franchises 97 year history. In those those 97 years, the Cardinals all-time win/loss percentage is .426, 546-736. Bruce Arians’ winning percentage is .632, 45-26-1. It took Whisenhunt 24 more games than Arians to reach his 45th win as he went 45-51 in 96 games as the Cardinal head coach.

Any given Sunday is the saying, but in this case any given Thursday is what the home underdog (5 1/2 point) Arizona Cardinal fanbase is saying to themselves entering an important inter-divisional matchup against the 5-3 Seattle Seahawks. A win tonight and the Cardinals will enter Week 11 tied for second place in the NFC West with Seattle and no worse than two games back of the division leading Los Angeles Rams.

In a league a dominated by quarterback play, it’s no surprise that the outside sports world isn’t giving the Drew Stanton led Cardinals much of a chance against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Out of 18 “experts” from CBS Sports, SBNation and Pro Football Focus, only three chose the Cardinals to come out victorious this evening in Glendale.

While Seattle’s defense has allowed over 18 points in a game just twice this season, it’s Russell Wilson, who has thrust himself into the MVP conversation entering the second half of the season, that can hurt the Cardinals the most tonight. Entering Week 10, Wilson is ranked top four for quarterbacks in passing yards (3rd)/ passing yards/gm (2nd), rushing yards (2nd) and total yards (2nd). He is also their team leader in rushing yards with 271. That’s 63 yards more than the next closest player, running back Chris Carson, who hasn’t played since fracturing his leg on October 2nd. The Seahawks have only two rushing touchdowns through their first eight games of the season. One of those is from their QB.

Even though Seattle’s best receiver, Doug Baldwin, lines up as the slot receiver for the Seahawks, look for Patrick Peterson to be shadowing him tonight, or at least he should be lined up against Baldwin. In the last five games against the Cardinals, Doug Baldwin has reeled in 38 receptions against tonight’s home team. Shutting Baldwin down will go a long ways in preventing big plays from Russell Wilson.

Considering it would be a lot to ask of Drew Stanton to win a shootout against any defense, especially one whose lowest rated defensive starter by Pro Football Focus is Safety Bradley McDougald at 72.9, it’s safe to say that if the Cardinals can not find a way to contain Russell Wilson for large parts of the game their chances to beat Seattle for the first time at home since 2012 are slim to none. On the bright side, a win tonight and the Cards move their unbeaten streak against division rival Seattle to three.

The difference between the two teams’ injury reports are staggering, advantage Arizona:

All the Cardinals on the active roster are good to go tonight, according to coach Arians.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d run 37 times… You get injuries and your team has to re-identify itself, we’ve got a new identity and he’s the focal point.” – Bruce Arians on RB Adrian Peterson

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Bruce Arians could ever adapt from the “Risk it to get the biscuit” coach to one who had his running back actually rush the ball more often than he asked his quarterback to throw, but that is exactly what coach Arians did on Sunday against the 49ers. As a matter of fact, Arians called 30% more run than pass plays, 43-30. Adrian Peterson, 10 years and a day after breaking the all-time single-game rushing record, had a career high 37 carries. Only one running back in the NFL had over 93 yards in Week 9 and that was Adrian Peterson, who had 66 more yards on the ground than the next closest running back in the league.

It would be remiss of me not to mention a couple of the big guys up front who aided Peterson to his 37 carry, 159 yard performance, Tackles D.J. Humphries and Jared Veldheer. Since Week 6, the Cardinals house two of the better offensive tackles in the NFL.

In the first five games of the season, Veldheer looked incompetent and out of position on the right side of the o-line as he allowed 27 total pressures in 243 pass-blocking snaps while posting only one game with a PFF grade above 40.0. In the last three games, Jared has allowed only three total pressures with no singular game producing a grade lower than 75.6. His biggest challenge will be tonight when he’ll face the Seahawks edge rusher Frank Clark. Clark has 13 QB pressures in the last three games, which is 6th most in the NFL from defensive ends over than span.

The addition of Adrian Peterson and the return of D.J. Humphries (both in Week 6) have given Cardinal fans hope again. In the season opener, D.J. Humphries went down with an injury within the first 20 offensive plays in the game. Since D.J. came back in Week 6, the Cardinals have been able to run out the same five offensive lineman for what is now the fourth straight game. Humphries is now the second highest graded offensive player according to PFF, behind Larry Fitzgerald.

In the first five games of the year, the offense could only muster 259 yards on the ground. In these last three weeks, the ground game has produced a whopping 352 rushing yards. It’s not rocket science to figure out that the best way to beat Seattle, and snap a four game winless streak to them at home, is going to be a full dose of Adrian Peterson on offense while containing Russell Wilson and his big play potential while the BirdGang is on D. A successful combination of the two and the Cardinals will go above .500 for the first time since 2015 and Bruce Arians will walk off the field at University of Phoenix Stadium as the sole leader in wins for the NFL’s oldest franchise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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