Niners Nation gives a pretty fascinating statistical analysis on the two conference championship games. They say the stats show an Eagles win.
Bengals fans are still upset over not getting Desean Jackson. Cincy drafted Coastal Carolina WR Jerome Simpson 3 picks ahead of Jackson, and Simpson produced one catch last year. Our Bengals blog responded to that article, saying that it's still too early to judge.
Brian Westbrook actually practiced for once this week. That has to be good news.
Finally, we have our second and final interview with a Cardinals blogger from Revenge of the Birds. Same questions, diffrent blogger. The Q&A is after the jump...
The phrase we keep hearing about the Cardinals now as opposed to when they lost 48-20 to the Eagles on Thanksgiving is that "it's not the same team." Clearly the results seems to support that... but why aren't they the same team? What has changed?
For lack of a better metaphor, the Cardinals had shot their wad against the Giants the Sunday before and had nothing left on a short week. Combine the physical and mental drain of that game, a short week of preparations, and then the "ambush" the Eagles had on the Cards and you have a rout in the making. What has changed since then? It's the playoffs. It's as simple as that. The team will have had a full week to prepare. They'll be home. They're riding an emotional high.
Regardless of the Cardinals being "not the same team", neither will the Eagles. So I really don't give the "different team" justification for an improved Cardinals performance a lot of weight. There's far more going on.
What percentage of credit do you give the Cardinals defense for the disastrous performance Jake Delhomme put on in the divisional round? How much of it was just him playing poorly?
Jake's first three turnovers I give full credit to the Cardinals. They presented different looks and confused the 'ell out of Delhomme. These were truly "takeaways", especially Smith's forced fumble and DRC's pick at the goal line (the tipped pass should have been picked by DRC, not going all the way to Rolle). Once he was rattled, the defense just had to catch the ball as Delhomme was trying to do too much. Truly "turnovers".
Much like the Eagles, the Cardinals spent the year being a pass happy team that didn't have much balance and largely ignored the run. However, much like the Eagles the Cards have discovered new balance in the playoffs and it's worked for them. What do you contribute this new found balance to?
Hell, if I knew I would have driven to Tempe and told Whisenhunt in person. I sometimes wonder if the Cardinals were playing "lame" on purpose to keep the balanced approach out of sight, out of mind. Regardless, they sucked giant donkey balls most of the season and didn't provide a lot of film to scheme against. They were certainly much more balanced early in the season until the Jets game. I suppose the problem really boils down to Whisenhunt putting all his trust in Hightower to perform. He was spotty at best as a starter. Going back to James and the early-season game plans has brought back the "run the table" potential of the offense.
Ex Eagles and current Cardinal TE Stephen Spach is out for this game and it appears Boldin will be back. What effect if any will Spach's absence have on the run and pass game? Could Boldin's return possibly entice the Cards to throw more and get away from the balance we've seen in this postseason?
Spach was the best "decoy" the Cardinals had as he was the only TE on the squad that could play every down. The other TEs on the roster are clearly "catching" or "blocking" types. Spach could do both. He was sent in motion a lot that disguised the play's scope in direction and type. With him out, Pope or Patrick (likely the latter) will have to mimic Spach's role. I don't see that happening though, so the Eagles should have a better sense of what is coming at them based on formations. Boldin is one of the best blocking WRs in the league so he will provide as much help in the running game as in the passing game. He may not be 100% (hell, even 75%) but just his presence on the field should help both aspects of the offense.
The first road game the Cardinals won outside of the NFC West all year came just last week. However, at home you've lost just twice. What do you attribute the difference in home/road performance this year?
Historically the Cardinals have always played better at home. Last time they were 4-4 on the road Vince Tobin was coaching. Kurt loves his dome. The team loves how loud the dome is with the roof closed (oh it will be, it will be). I guess the Cardinals are creatures of habit and going on the road disrupts that to some extent. ::shrugs:: Again, another thing if I knew the answer I would make the 14 hour drive to Tempe from Sacramento.
Who's the underdog? Cardinals easy. No one expected them to be here, let alone hosting. Eagles have been a good team for a long time. The average NFL fan's perception of the teams will be based on history not just this season, last week, or the first half's score. Daryl Johnson was still predicting the Panthers would win at 20-7 last week! People that don't know the Cardinals probably don't care to know the team and will cling to the few factoids that fit their "gestalt" view of that team. The Cards lost a lot of games at the end of the season — they clearly aren't good and will be one-and-done. That's been true for the Cardinals first two opponents!