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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Kansas City at Arizona: 5 Things to Know

The similarities between these two teams is staggering; the Arizona Cardinals and KC Chiefs seem to be heading in the same direction. Both are coming off of two consecutive losses and need desperately to get back to their winning ways if they are to stay in the playoff hunt.

1. They are both suffering from the injury bug.

It is a terrible disease that strikes at the most inopportune times. The Cardinals are without their starting QB, Carson Palmer, as well as Andre Ellington, starting right guard Paul Fanaika, defensive tackle Ed Stinson, and safety Tyrann Mathieu. Larry Fitzgerald is listed as a game-time decision as well.

The Chiefs are missing Junior Hemmingway and Allen Bailey, and of course, Eric Berry; and they may also face limitations on Donnie Avery, Tamba Hali, and Anthony Fasano. Any way you slice it, this game may be as much about who is on the field to contribute as anything else.

2. Both teams are struggling to run the ball.

Whether it's the blocking or the inability to cut up-field and gain positive yards, two teams with talented runners aren't gaining much ground on the ground. The Denver defense held Jamaal Charles to just 35 yards... 35! But Ellington has been the more inconsistent, sometimes flirting with 100, sometimes barely clearing single-digits. If he is out, Stepfan Taylor will have his chance to shine. One of these teams needs to dominate in that department Sunday.

Taylor may, in fact, be the answer, as he is a slightly larger back than Ellington and may just need his day in the sun to excel. We all know who Charles is and it will be up to the Cardinal defense to deal with his size and power.

3. Alex Smith may have peaked, and Drew Stanton has the nod from his coaches.

Smith tends to do just enough to win. He is a good QB, but he won't set any records throwing the ball. Denver exposed his weakness with a heavy rush that hit paydirt six times last week. Drew Stanton needs to keep his head in the game and make smart throws. He has the weapons to expose a thin secondary. If he has time, he could be the worst nightmare of the Chiefs.

4. The winner of this game can make a run to the post-season.

KC is two games out behind Denver and San Diego. They will be hoping for some help from the Patriots and a miracle from the Bills, to stay alive. Arizona has to stay ahead of Seattle and that means winning at any cost. While San Francisco's loss last week helps, that probably won't happen this week. And Seattle appears determined to overtake Arizona; they can't count on help there, they must win to stay competitive in a stacked NFC race. This game is absolutely crucial... both ways.

Winning is essential, but desperation can often have a negative effect. KC and Arizona must stick to the game-plan to come out with the win.

5. Game plans.

Two of the game's best face-off in a west meets west show-down. Bruce Arians brought his winning ways to Arizona and hasn't disappointed. He brings a certain amount of inspiration that could carry the Cards through this tough time.

Andy Reid's legacy follows him... he got the most out of his Eagles, and he continues to do the same with the Chiefs. He has yet to take then all the way, but it may just be a matter of time. His defense has suffered some setbacks, but they have one thing that cannot be taken away, a coach who squeezes every ounce of potential out of every player.

We will see two tough dogs doing battle from the sidelines. Both have playoff experience, and both want to go back for another try. It should be a classic battle.


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