Examining the Cardinals: Five Points

It's a battle of 5-1 teams, as NFC East Champion Philadelphia must head out west to battle the suddenly impenetrable Cardinals.

Palmer Revitalized

2003 top pick Carson Palmer is rolling up on his 35th birthday this year, with a rather nifty stat-line paying homage to his age. In three games played, Palmer's thrown six touchdowns and just one interception: a tipped ball by John Carlson this past Sunday, easily nabbed by fellow fogey Charles Woodson. Palmer has completed 66.07 percent of his throws over those three games.

Palmer did indeed miss the other three with a rather unconventional injury, a nerve contusion in his right shoulder, which led to journeyman Drew Stanton stepping in with mixed results. The Cardinals line as a whole has allowed 11 sacks on the year, only four with Palmer behind the line.

The Receiver Tree

The selling point for Arizona's offense is their wide receiving corps, led by mega-star Larry Fitzgerald, and fortified by Michael Floyd and rookie sensation John Brown. Although Fitzgerald has only one touchdown on the year, he still has the capability to put up a big day. Against the Redskins on October 12, Fitzgerald hit his season apex with six catches, 98 yards, and that very touchdown.

Of the eight other passing touchdowns thrown by the Cardinals, five go to Floyd (two) and Brown (three). Brown's breakout day came against the 49ers, toasting the secondary to the tune of two long scores, while big-bodied Floyd averages a staggering 18.58 yards a reception. Palmer's not afraid to throw deep, and opposing secondaries have a wealth of ground to cover to try and stifle this group.

Easy Does It

Another big reason for the 5-1 start in Glendale: they don't turn the ball over. Arizona has only committed four turnovers all season, tying them for second least in the league behind San Diego's three. Making the statistic more impressive is that the Cardinals lost two fumbles in Week 1 to those very Chargers, and have only coughed up the ball twice since then.

Those possession-losses were the aforementioned Palmer interception this past Sunday, and a Fitzgerald fumble against the 49ers on September 21. Ball security buoys a team that creates opportunity with big play receivers, so if nobody's making mistakes, this is a hard offense to take the legs out from underneath of.

No Room to Run

What do Ronnie Hillman and Rashad Jennings have in common? Besides sharing the same job title of running back, they're tied for the most rushing yards against the Cardinals defense this season: a whopping 64. Hillman barely crossed four yards a carry (4.27 on 15 carries), while Jennings was sub-4.0 level (3.56 on 18 carries). No other running back has cleared 50 yards against Arizona, although Colin Kaepernick managed 54 yards on 12 carries.

Of the three other running backs to clear 40 yards, all were sub-4.0 YPA: Darren McFadden (3.43), Alfred Morris (3.15), and Ryan Mathews (3.33). The linebacking corps of Matt Shaughnessy, Kevin Minter, Sam Acho, and Larry Foote all demonstrate great run-stopping instincts. Foote leads the defense with 17 stops behind the line, which is pretty notable for a 34-year-old. Shaughnessy is out for a couple of months on designated-IR return with a knee injury.


Jerraud Powers leads the Cardinals with three interceptions, just as Malcolm Jenkins does the Eagles. Unlike Jenkins, however, Powers has teammates that have picked off passes as well, with Rashad Johnson nabbing a pair, and three other players snagging one each. Of those eight interceptions, none have fallen into the hands of vaunted LSU defenders Patrick Peterson or Tyrann Mathieu, so there's pass-defending depth everywhere.

Opponents do complete a hair over 65 percent of their throws against the Cardinals, but Arizona has been able to make up for that uninhibited flow with timely turnovers. Their eight picks are tied for third most by any defense, and they'll be keying on Nick Foles' sudden spotty tendencies.

Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used to write this story.

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