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The Arizona Cardinals Are The NFL’s Quiet Storm

Tyrann Mathieu and the Arizona Cardinals are starting off like a house of fire once again. (photo courtesy of www.journaltimes.com)

Tyrann Mathieu and the Arizona Cardinals are starting off like a house of fire once again. (photo courtesy of http://www.journaltimes.com)

The NFC had a few teams that were looked at as Super Bowl contenders. The Green Bay Packers were on team that was talked about. After a 2-0 start to the season, they are living up to the feelings a lot of fans had about them despite losing wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the preseason. Another team that received a lot of attention before the season is the Seattle Seahawks. The team started off the season losing two straight, but they dominated the Chicago Bears on Sunday 26-0 to let folks know that they are still a team that needs to be feared. These two teams have pretty much been the two that many believe will represent the NFC. But there is one team that many fans continue to sleep on. And believe it or not, they are for real. And contrary to belief, this team has as good a shot as any to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

The Arizona Cardinals have gotten better and better each year under head coach Bruce Arians. The veteran offensive coordinator took over a talented team that needed some direction. And once he stepped in, he provided the direction they needed. He has had them at double-figures in wins each year he has been there, making a playoff appearance the last two seasons. But this year, this team may be the best it has ever been under him. Last season, the Cardinals had the best record in the NFL while Carson Palmer was at quarterback. Things seemed to be lining up for them perfectly when Palmer went down with a knee injury against the St. Louis Rams. The way he landed led many to believe that it was an ACL injury and it was confirmed when tests were done on his knee. Drew Stanton took over at quarterback, but this team was not the same going forward. They were missing their leader and their best quarterback. This year for them, hopefully he stays healthy. With him healthy, they will definitely build on their success last year. And with him, the young receivers that they have (Michael Floyd and John Brown) are better.

The team hopes that Palmer stays healthy because he is key to their Super Bowl run, but he is not the only offensive ingredient that is needed to make this run happen. The Cardinals, for all their success last season, were a terrible running team. The group of backs they had last year were just not getting the job done. And going into the offseason, there were still questions in regards to what they would do to improve the running game. Well, they went out and got offensive guard Mike Iupati and running back Chris Johnson this offseason to try to boost their running game. Iupati has not played and Johnson had a big game today but has not taken over as the everydown guy, but even with that they are still a better running team. It seems like the mindset of the team has changed offensively. The team last season just did not seem to be very physical when running the ball last year. This year, the team definitely has a physical presence in the trenches. And it seems like their running backs got the memo as well. The Cardinals are ranked 12th rushing the football so far this season, averaging 117.5 rushing yards per game and 4.4 per attempt rushing. Last season, they only averaged 81.8 rushing yards per game and averaged 3.3 yards per game. The addition of a consistent running game makes the Cardinals even more dangerous when on offense because now they can have some true play-action offense that opposing defenses will respect. And with Larry Fitzgerald having a great season so far, that offense has become scary good with a running game (averaging 39.5 points per game so far this season).

The offense in Arizona is scary, but the defense is as well. Last season, the defense was manned by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles last season. And with his constant pressure and blitzing style, the Cardinals were a feared defensive group. They boasted a defense that was ranked in the Top 5 in the NFL. Bowles and his defense were so good last year that it landed him a head coaching gig with the New York Jets. With Bowles leaving, some questioned whether they would be able to sustain what he created or fall back in the crowd. The Cardinals promoted outside linebackers coach James Bettner to defensive coordinator and by all indications so far, the Cardinals have not dropped off at all. So far, they are ranked in the Top 5 again this season. But what is different this year is the level of playmakers they have in the secondary. Safety Tyrann Mathieu, for example, has been excellent so far this season and continues to get better. The thought is out there that he is becoming one of the best playmakers the Cardinals have, rivaling cornerback Patrick Peterson. And with the pass rush they have, led by defensive lineman Calais Campbell, it allows the playmakers on the back end to make plays. As the season goes on, the team will be even more exciting and we will get to know all the playmakers they have in their secondary to accompany their front seven.

The Cardinals once again have everyone where they want them. No one is talking about them at all and yet they are atop the NFL standings at this point with three wins and zero losses. But as time goes by, they will receive the attention they deserve. And what many will realize is this team is better suited than their 2014 team to make a run at a Super Bowl.

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Ballers And Wankstas Of The Week- Week 13

The players played. The ballers balled. And some players and coaches just flat-out didn’t get it done. Without further adieu, here are the Ballers and Wankstas of the week!

Ballers Of The Week

Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans (23 carries, 153 yards, 2 TDs)
CJ has started to pick up steam the past few weeks. This is his second big game in a row and he looks like he has that homerun gear back as well. It should be interesting to see what he does against the New Orleans Saints this week.

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens (29 carries, 204 yards, 1 TD)
The Ray Rice train was running on all cylinders this past Sunday in Cleveland. When he gets the ball, the Ravens make things happen offensively. Maybe they need to feed him the ball more every game. Just a thought.

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (26/36, 342 yards, 3 TDs)
Brees was cool as the other side of the pillow Sunday night vs the Lions. He dissected the Lions this past Sunday night and it should be interesting to see what happens this week when he takes on the Tennessee Titans.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks (22 carries, 148 yards, 2 TDs)
Lynch was in beast mode this past week in the NFL. He did any and everything he wanted to do. Maybe he needs to have the Skittles more on the sideline. They have special powers.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos (4 receptions, 144 yards, 2 TDs)
Thomas was in rare form against the Vikings. When he came out of Georgia Tech he was considered a beast and he sure looked like that Sunday. The Broncos just keep on rolling.

Wankstas Of The Week

Jason Garrett
For those that don’t know, Jason Garrett is the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were tied at 13 with the Cardinals and had moved into field goal range and had a chance to kick a field goal to win the game. The snap. The set. The kick is GOOD!! Except we have one problem. Jason Garrett called timeout right before the kick. Garrett’s timeout was effective for the Cardinals and ineffective for his own team as PK Dan Bailey missed the second attempt at the kick and Dallas went on to lose in overtime to the Cardinals. The hits just keep coming from Garrett. Icing your own kicker is at the top of the list of gaffes for him.

St. Louis Rams
How do you go a whole NFL game and don’t score any points? Well, that’s a questions that the Rams have to answer. I know the 49ers defense is stingy, but you’re pros St. Louis! At least give me three points.

Jacksonville Jaguars
For those that didn’t watch, the Jaguars were the co-stars of the Disappearing Acts sequel. The second half was a total shame and even though I expect the Jags to be bad, when they play against the hapless Chargers, they have to give me at least some kind of competitive game.

Vince Young, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (17/29, 208 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs)
Young’s career may be getting old quick. He hasn’t shown any improvement in reading defenses and he threw some passes that had me asking: “Who is he throwing the ball to?”. Vince, if you want to stay in the NFL, you gotta read a defense better than that.

These are my Ballers and Wankstas of the Week. If you have anyone you feel should have made either list, feel free to drop a comment.

Bigger Than The Game

This past weekend, I got a special opportunity. I got to attend the Tennessee Titans game. The Titans were playing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and were trying to get their playoff run started. RB Chris Johnson played his best game of the year. He ran for a season-high 190 yards and the Titans defense had a late stand to hold off the Bucs. All the fans that were at the game braved the elements to experience the win. But to be honest, my mind was on something bigger than the NFL.

My main goal in coming to the Titans/Buccaneers game was to represent a cause. Not only a cause, but a mission. My mission was to let everyone know about the great things that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee was doing. For those that don’t know, Big Brothers Big Sisters, or BBBS for short, is an organization that tries to find willing and able adults that want to use their influence to encourage a young boy or girl who maybe didn’t have someone there to guide them through the rigors of life. I was there at the stadium almost two hours before the game to pass on the word about BBBS. I walked around the stadium passing out flyers and just letting folks know that youngsters out there need them.

Just a thought for all the sports fans out there. Next time you are at a game, look to your left and look to your right. I’m pretty sure that you see grown men and women there next to you. In fact, look across the stadium and see all the seats that are filled by grown men and women who are passionate about sports. Now think if these sports fans were as passionate about making a difference in America with our youth. Quit thinking that you don’t have time or someone else will do it besides you. All it takes is a little bit of time to affect a child’s life in a positive way. Now I want all of you to look at the stadium picture I took below. Imagine if this stadium was filled with volunteers in America that took time to help a youngster find their way. Now take a look at yourself and ask yourself a question: Can I make a difference?

Ballers And Wankstas Of The Week- Week 12

All the players came to the player’s ball. Unfortunately, some didn’t make it in the ball and were left standing outside. Here are the Ballers and Wankstas of the Week!

Ballers Of The Week

Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets (17/35, 180 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT)
Sanchez came out and made the throws needed to pump some energy into his team. I think he needs to build upon this next week. Hopefully the Jets won’t ask him to throw this much again though. This could be fool’s gold. But I have to give Sanchez props for his great play this game though.

Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans (21 carries, 190 yards)
Johnson didn’t have that extra gear, but he was hitting holes and hitting them hard as he penetrated the Bucs defense. The next challenge will be to see if Johnson and his offensive line can keep the momentum going into next weekend in Buffalo.

Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals (27 carries, 228 yards, 1 TD)
Everyone hope aboard the Wells train. Beanie was moving like a powerful locomotive with deadly power and speed as he ran through the Rams defense. Imagine if Beanie ran this well and his line blocked this well all the time. Now that’s a scary thought.

New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees and the boys came out and went to work on the Giants. They sliced, diced and basically dismantled the Giants. They had over 500 yards of offense, including 4 80+ yard drives that ended in TDs.

Wankstas Of The Week

Tyler Palko, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (18/28, 167 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT)
Shane Falco would be a better option at QB instead of Palko at this point. Palko made some inexplicable throws. In fact, some of his throws were into double and triple coverage. Maybe Palko should have taken the time as a backup to learn how to read defenses instead of just standing there.

Philadelphia Coach Andy Reid
I don’t know if Andy Reid gets it. His most important player is LaSean McCoy. When he gets 25+ touches, the Eagles win. When he doesn’t, they lose. My question for Reid is why wouldn’t you get your most important player touches? He is the key to you winning. Well, he may not be making the calls in Philly too much longer because of his inconsistent play-calling.

New York Giants Defense
The Giants defense didn’t show ant effort, didn’t show any sense of urgency and basically had a lackluster effort against the Saints. You would have expected more from them, especially since their playoff future is fading away.

These are the Ballers and Wankstas of the Week. If you have any ballers or Wankstas that you would like to add, feel free to drop a comment!

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The Everyday Mailbag- 10/25/2011

Many games. Many questions. Many answers. Hopefully I won’t disappoint this week with my answers like the Baltimore Ravens did on Monday Night Football. Without further adieu, here are this week’s sports questions that the Sports World wants to know!

Q: What did u think of Tim Tebow’s performance and will he succeed?
-Michael C., Las Vegas, NV

A: I thought he had an uneven performance overall. Now in saying that, when it comes to winning time, he comes thru. He is a winner. Now he has to take the rest of his game to where his leadership abilities are. If he does that, then he will succeed.

Q: ‎​How do you see the Chiefs finishing the season?
-Joey K., Los Angeles, CA

A: Good question. In the unpredictable AFC West, I still see them finishing second. I think either the Raiders or Chargers will win the division.

Q: What do you think about a one loss Alabama or LSU making it 2 the championship game?
-David D., Murfreesboro, TN

A: I think that could potentially happen and I would be fine with that. To me, these two teams have been the most consistently impressive teams each week. And it isn’t like they have been playing awful teams every week either.

Q: Do you see Green Bay losing at all this season? And if so, which team will hand them the first loss?
-Kareem H., Nashville, TN

A: I would like to say that I do see them going undefeated this season, but I would be lying. Now I’m not saying they’re not a great team, but I see one of two teams beating them this year: the Giants and the Lions, provided Stafford stays healthy.

Q: Do you think the BCS system is that bad?
-Bobby C., Sacramento, CA

A: I think it makes every game count but in the same instance, puts teams at disadvantages. Disadvantage is the way teams are ranked before the season starts hurts them at times. Another thing that you don’t see is teams battle it out to become the official national champ. I would like to see a tournament for that myself personally. The BCS is ok, but not great in my opinion.

Q: What’s wrong with the Titans?
-Dallah S., Manhattan, NY

A: I think the main things that are showing right now is they can’t stop the run and they can’t run the ball. I believe the Titans have to get back to being even more physical in their offensive line. Its not all Chris Johnson’s fault that the running game isn’t producing. Defensively, its all about making the right fits, taking the right angles and making the play. The Titans do those things and they will be fine.

Thanks for the questions everyone! And remember, if you have sports questions, I have answers!

Mike Patton is a member of the Sports Blog Movement. You can find the Sports Blog Movement at http://www.sportsblogmovement.com or on Twitter by typing in #SportsBlogMovement in the search.

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