Glendale, AZ. Before anyone gets overly excited about an undefeated team in the NFL right now, we are just two weeks into the regular season. Twenty teams entered the weekend at 1-1, which is a league record at this point of an early season. Possibly the most surprising of the unbeaten teams so far is the Arizona Cardinals. After down to the wire wins over Seattle and New England, the team down in the desert is tied atop the NFC West with the powerful 49ers. Most followers of the NFL picked Arizona to lose in week 1, but their victory over the Seahawks was still not a major shocker. Heading into week 2 though, basically everyone outside of the Cardinals locker room was picking the Patriots to come out on top, and probably in a blowout as well. It was just a matter of how long Arizona could keep it competitive, as New England would do what New England does at home….win and win big. But as the second half went along, and the Cardinals maintained their lead, it became apparent that New England was in a dogfight. Then the fumble happened, as Ryan Williams coughed it up with very little time remaining. It looked as if Arizona had just given the game away after playing so hard and deserving to win. But shockingly enough, the Patriots didn’t try to score a TD, and instead lined up for a fairly long field goal attempt to win it. Everyone knew it was going to split the uprights and propel the Patriots to a come from behind victory. But instead, it sailed about a mile wide left, and the Cardinals had stunned the NFL world. This 20-18 win was one of the bigger regular season upsets in recent memory, and shocked everyone east of Phoenix. So now at 2-0, the Arizona Cardinals are having to deal with something that is typically very foreign for this franchise….success. Yes, they made a Super Bowl appearance a few years ago, but that sort of prosperity is not the norm for the Cardinals. With 2-0 Philly now coming to town, week 3 will show everyone what this team is all about.
How have they done it? How are the Cardinals 2-0 right now? The QB situation is maybe the worst, indecisive one in the league, as Kevin Kolb and John Skelton have been their underwhelming selves. Larry Fitzgerald seems to be part of the witness protection program, as whoever is under center throwing the ball has forgotten about the star receiver completely. The running game has been iffy at best, as neither Beanie Wells or Ryan Williams have gotten untracked whatsoever. The answer as to how they are doing it so far is very simple in fact. It’s the defense. This unit has been very surprising, limiting Seattle and the powerful Patriots to a combined 34 points. The guys in the front seven, namely Darnell Dockett and Daryl Washington, have put a bunch of pressure on the opposing QB’s. Through two games, this Cardinals defense has 7 sacks, and have been flying all over the field. The key has also been the outstanding secondary, as passing on this team can be a scary proposition. Veteran Adrian Wilson is still one of the best safeties and hardest hitting ones at that. Newcomer William Gay has been a nice addition from Pittsburgh and been a solid contributor so far. But the star is Patrick Peterson, who in his second year is becoming a truly elite cornerback in the NFL. He had a heck of a rookie year in 2011, but seems to have elevated his game even more so in 2012. This defense seems to have finally come together after years of undisciplined play and tons of mistakes. A big test will come this week, as they have to try to contain Michael Vick. Yes, Vick has been extremely mistake prone during the first two weeks, but he can also make plenty of plays when things break down. Philly will bring a dangerous running game to Arizona as well, so this Cardinals defense will need to come up big again. But the question should be this heading into this game….can the Cardinals stay focused and prove the first two weeks have not been a fluke? There are still plenty of fans everywhere who are just waiting for Arizona to stub its toe and collapse now that they have won a few games in impressive fashion. This game against the Eagles will tell us all a lot. Philadelphia has not been overly outstanding in their two victories so far, but they have a very formidable defense which will look to pressure their old friend, Kevin Kolb. A low scoring game seems to be very likely, with two high-flying defenses dominating all game long. Both the Cardinals and Eagles have each been involved in two very tight games, and both have shown they can win nail-biters. Don’t be surprised if this matchup comes down to the final minutes of the 4th quarter in Glendale.
This game is important for both teams, but seems to be more of a litmus test for the Arizona Cardinals at this point of the season. How do they handle coming home after a huge win on the road against New England? Are they mature enough to handle a little bit of success and get the job done to go to 3-0? Or will they stumble and make mistakes which leads to a loss against the opportunistic Eagles? Arizona has now shown that they can compete at a very high level, but doing it week after week will be the key to making everyone believers.
Denver Sports by J Simp