When the Cardinals Run
The Cardinals need to fully utilize Edgerrin James. Despite Kurt Warner's 30-plus pass attempts in the last three games, James averages 4.2 a carry in the month of December. James started the month off hot. Against the Cleveland Browns in week 13, he rushed for 115 yards. The Cardinals are 2-0 this season when James rushes for more than 100 yards in a game.
It is true that James is no longer an explosive runner. His longest run this season was a 23-yard touchdown against the Carolina Panthers. However, the Cardinals do not seem to benefit from the long runs when he is able to rip them off. Arizona is 0-3 when James has a run of 20 or more yards.
Nevertheless, James might get his chance to run for the win against the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons rank No. 27 against the run, giving up 128.4 yards a game. Their aggression seems to be muzzled. The Falcons' total tackles (887) for the season rank second-lowest in the league. If James gets enough carries and pushes the Falcons' defense back, the Cardinals will be successful at home.
The Falcons could be without punishing DT Tim Anderson (knee). He is doubtful for Sunday. Anderson is intense against the run, but follows his team's low tackling trend. Anderson has just one solo tackle in each of the past five games.
An Anderson absence will help the Cardinals focus on the outside. OLB Michael Boley leads his team in tackles (106 total). Look for tight ends Troy Bienemann and Ben Patrick step up to the challenge. They will determine how effectively the Cards can run against Boley.
When the Cardinals Pass
The Cardinals' top two receivers are both hurting. Larry Fitzgerald (groin) and Anquan Boldin (toe) are questionable for Sunday. Each was limited in practice all week. They could use the rest, as could the Cardinals' passing game.
Arizona is just 2-5 when Warner passes for more than 200 yards. The Falcons are horrible on run defense, but are No. 12 against the pass. They allow 210.9 yards a game.
Warner is more and more susceptible to sacks each week. His line has allowed seven sacks in the past two games. Lucky for Warner, the Falcons' defense have made just 21 sacks this season, fourth lowest in the NFL.
Arizona's passing game runs through Fitzgerald, who has a touchdown reception in each of the past five games. If he is good to go on Sunday, he will have a big game.
When the Falcons Run
The Falcons run the ball even less than the Cardinals do. Arizona has 342 attempts on the season, compared to Atlanta's 333.
The Falcons top rusher, Warrick Dunn, has only 635 yards on the season. It should be easy for the Cardinals to keep him in check.
When the Falcons Pass
Atlanta has a whole lot of nothing going on at the quarterback position. The Falcons' play callers have been sacked 43 times this season. QB Chris Redman will start for Atlanta on Sunday. He has four touchdowns against four interceptions in his three starts this season. If the Falcons choose to go with Redman, they will take their chances with his 50 percent completion percentage.
The Cardinals have no interceptions in the last two games, but CB Antrel Rolle is one to watch. He can break the interception-free streak for Arizona and run the distance. The Cardinals must fluster Redman and force him to pass often. Redman has yet to win a start this season and is incapable of carrying a team on his shoulders.
WR Roddy White is the Falcons' receiving leader with 66 catches for 999 yards. He will be matched up against CB Roderick Hood, who shows continued improvement. Hood's four interceptions and 47 (total) tackles are drastically different numbers than last year, when he recorded no interceptions and 21 tackles with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Just for Kicks
The Falcons' top contributor on special teams is 47-year-old kicker Morten Andersen. The 25-year veteran has converted 20 of 23 field goals.
KR Adam Jennings averages 22.4 yards per kick return, compared to Arizona's J.J. Arrington, who averages 22.8.
Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications.
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