Gameday Primer: Cardinals @ Redskins

After facing back-to-back patsies, the Arizona Cardinals head to the east coast for their first real challenge of the season. Awaiting the Cardinals is a team that is remarkably similar. Both teams are loaded with talent, but have yet to reach their potential. This will certainly be a fierce matchup between two thriving up and comers.

When the Skins' Pass:

Jason Campbell and the high powered offense will be facing a serious foe in the Arizona Cardinals. Equipped with speed, the receiving corps is a deadly entity. Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El make up one of the fastest duos in the league. With Campbell finally starting to show his potential, it should be a difficult week for the Cardinals secondary. An interesting matchup to watch will be Adrian Wilson and Chris Cooley. Cooley is a beast at the TE position and he should keep Wilson busy all day.

The Skins' offense is difficult to cover because of the multiple home run threats. Randel El and Moss can beat any team deep. Look for the Campbell to start out with short passes in an attempt to bring in the D and then try to strike it rich with a play action deep. Jim Zorn's pass happy attitude should lead to a fast paced game that is well worth the price of admission.

When the Skins' Run:

Clinton Portis is a top tier RB, when not injured. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, he is as healthy as he can be. However, with Jim Zorn taking over for Joe Gibbs it will be interesting to see if Portis will continue to be the focal point of the offense. Underrated backup Ladell Betts should also play an active role in the offense. With Adrian Wilson busy tying up Cooley, it will be up to the linebackers to hold down the fort against Portis and company.

Look for Portis to rack up around 80 yards and a TD. Normally his stats would be higher, but with the Cardinals pumped up after their first 2-0 start since 1991 the intensity should be high.

Just for Kicks:

Shaun Suisham and Durant Brooks are both capable of completing their job without many issues. Neither have game changing ability, but both can provide the consistency necessary for a successful special teams unit. Suisham has struggled out the gate going 3 of 5 on kicks. It will be important for him to get back on track as this game could easily come down to a field goal.

When the Cardinals Pass:

Kurt Warner has been electric thus far. Coming up this week is his most difficult test yet. The Washington Redskins are better than the Dolphins and 49ers combined (although that isn't saying much). Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin continue to prove they are the best tandem in the NFL, while Steve Breaston is making Cardinal fans say "Bryant Johnson who?" The most important part of the passing game this week will be Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower. If the running backs can establish a solid ground game, Warner should have no problem slicing and dicing.

This week look for Leonard Pope to step up in the red zone. The Redskins have a capable D and the red zone offense will be essential to success. The Cardinals cannot expect an abundance of bone head penalties to bail them out like last week. Warner will not be able to match his perfect rating from the previous game, but with the proper protection he will be able to put forth another solid outing. Expect around 250 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

When the Cardinals Run:

The key to success this week is the run game. It would be easy for the Cardinals to fall into the trap of throwing too frequently. If they are going to win this week James and Hightower must be on top of their game. Clock control is imperative and without a solid ground attack that is virtually impossible. The amount of yards for James will not be as important as the quality of carries. He needs to get at least 4 yards per carry. James lack of speed coupled with the speed of the Redskins defense almost certainly eliminates the possibility of a long run. Because of that fact James must focus on hitting the hole, getting at least 3 yards and then fighting for the last 1-2.

The Goal line duties have become exclusively Hightower's. His nose for the end zone has provided the team with a serious threat inside the five yard line. The outcome of the game hinges on both of these players. If the Cardinals can establish the run and manage the clock, then they will win. If the Cardinals do not run effectively, it will make it extremely difficult to pass and the Redskins will be the victors.

Just for Kicks:

In 2005 Cardinal fans yawned and went back to the fridge for another drink whenever Neil Rackers came in for a kick. He was automatic and rarely did he even come close to missing. Since then it has been a completely different story. PAT's create pressure like Super Bowl winning kicks and 40 yarders feel like record breaking distances. Rackers has been better this season, but his stats and reality tell two different stories. Even though he is 4 out 5, one of his misses was waived off by a penalty and two other kicks have just squeaked through. Rackers must get it together before one of his errant kicks damages a potentially great season.


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