Cardinals Rested and Ready Following Bye Week

Following their best start since 2002, the Arizona Cardinals received a much needed break last week. Now, with the NFC West division theirs for the taking, Arizona must regain its focus and continue to perform on the field. Brad Wilbricht breaks down the current state of the Cardinals and outlines what may transpire for the remainder of the season.

While the Cardinals' offense garners the majority of the headlines, the defense has been the real story of the season thus far. Arizona is limiting its opponents to only 314 yards per game, including just 94 yards per contest on the ground. Furthermore, the Cardinals are currently tied for sixth in the NFL with 18 sacks and tied for third in the league with nine forced fumbles.

LB Karlos Dansby continues to be one of Arizona's major playmakers on defense. Dansby has already racked up 42 tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks. LB Gerald Hayes is second on the team in tackles as he's recorded 39 stops on the year. In addition, LB Clark Haggans has provided Clancy Pendergast's unit with an additional weapon in blitzing situations.

Despite battling through injuries, veteran Bertrand Berry is tied for the team lead with four sacks. Travis LaBoy shares the honor with Berry as he's also tallied four sacks over the Cardinals' first six games. Chike Okeafor is next in line with three sacks while Darnell Dockett has totaled two sacks.

QB Kurt Warner

On offense, QB Kurt Warner quickly put an end to the quarterback controversy, proving he can still perform at a high level. Warner beat out third-year QB Matt Leinart during the preseason and hasn't looked back since. Warner has completed 149-of-213 passes for 1,708 yards and 12 touchdowns. Additionally, he's maintaining a QB rating of 102.8 while completing 70 percent of his passes.

Even with the recent absence of WR Anquan Boldin, the Cardinals' receiving corps has been terrific. WR Larry Fitzgerald leads the team with 36 receptions for 546 yards and five touchdowns. Second-year WR Steve Breaston continues to emerge and has now passed Boldin as the team's second leading receiver. Breaston has reeled in 28 passes for 373 yards and one score. The majority of Breaston's production has come in the Cardinals' last three games as he's racked up 24 catches for 301 yards during that time span.

Arizona still lacks explosiveness on the ground but has received a tremendous boost from rookie RB Tim Hightower. Although he's gained only 130 yards rushing on 43 carries, Hightower has excelled in critical situations and has five touchdown runs on the year. He has also proved to be a dynamic receiving option out of the backfield, hauling in 14 passes for 121 yards.

With the rest of the NFC West in disarray, the Cardinals have a golden opportunity to win their first division title since 1975. With a two-game lead in the division, Arizona has put itself in an excellent position and has a decisive advantage heading into the second half of the season.

Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at

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