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Week 4 Preview: Cardinals @ Chargers

Regular Season Records:

Cardinals: 2-1 (1st in NFC West, tied), Last week: W vs. OAK, 24-23

Chargers: 1-2 (2nd in AFC West, 3-way tie), Last week: L @ SEA, 20-27

Gametime: Sun., Oct. 3, 4:15 p.m., ET, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA

Note: This game preview comes to you a day early because I will be on the road from tomorrow through the end of the weekend.  As a result, I will only be able to provide limited additional coverage.  In my stead, you may want to check out ESPN’s Cardinals’ Clubhouse or the Cardinals’ Official Website.

Charging Ahead to San Diego:

The Cardinals once again squeaked out a victory in dramatic fashion, this time owing the win to Sebastian Janikowski’s missed 32-yard would-be game winning field goal.  The Cardinals’ offense clunked to life when it was needed most, just barely getting enough points to hold off the Raiders.  The Cards’ defense rebounded from a very shaky first half by playing with great intensity in the second half, especially in the redzone.  In fact, the Cardinals allowed only 3 points in the second half.

That defense, however, will be thoroughly tested (perhaps overwhelmed) by the Chargers’ offense this week in San Diego.  Throw the Bolts’ 1-2 record out the window because they’re a very good team that is famous for its slow starts.  On any given week, it could be the game that the Chargers get the current flowing and rattle off eight, nine or ten straight wins.

Phillip Rivers, who leads the 2nd ranked passing attack in NFL (345 yards/game), has the talent and ability to take over any game.  Despite two losses in three games, Rivers has already thrown for 7 touchdowns and 1,087 yards, all without the benefit of star wide receiver Vincent Jackson.  Without Jackson, Rivers has relied on Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee, and Buster Davis to get the job done.  In addition, Rivers will of course have his favorite target, tight end Antonio Gates, healthy and at his disposal.  If given the chance, Rivers will turn the Arizona defensive secondary into shredded wheat.

Rookie running back Ryan Matthews missed last week’s game with an ankle sprain, but Mike Tolbert has been filling in admirably.  Tolbert has 181 yards on 35 carries for a 5.2 average to go along with his 2 rushing touchdowns.  The combination of Matthews and Tolbert so far has given the Chargers the 12th ranked rushing attack (116.3 yards/game), which gives this offense great balance.

The sometimes suspect Chargers’ defense has been stout as well.  The rushing defense ranks 6th in the NFL (181.3 yards allowed/game) and the passing defense ranks 9th (91.3 yards allowed/game).  In addition, the defense has logged 6 sacks, 5 INTs, 3 forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in just three games.  They are aggressive and will surely come after the struggling Derek Anderson with everything they have.

With such a high level of offensive and defensive play, the Chargers can blame their two losses to Kansas City and Seattle on special teams errors, especially against the Seahawks last week.  San Diego allowed Leon Washington to return two kickoffs for touchdowns, which proved to be the difference in the game.

If the Cards can contain Rivers and protect the ball on offense, the game could come down to a special teams play, like LaRod Stephens-Howling returning another kickoff for a touchdown.  On paper, the Cardinals don’t come close to matching up with the Chargers.  If San Diego jumps out to a two or even three possession lead in the first half, the Cardinals don’t have the type of offense to catch up, even if the defense again manages to shut down the opposition in the second half.  In other words, everything must go right for the Cards, right away.

Cardinals’ Week 4 Depth Chart /  Injury Report

Legend: * = probable, ^ = questionable, ` = doubtful, FP = full practice, LP = limited practice, DNP = did not practice

Offense:

WR1 – Larry Fitzgerald, Max Komar, Onrea Jones

LT – Levi Brown, Jeremy Bridges

LG – *Alan Faneca [back], Rex Hadnot

C – Lyle Sendlein, Ben Claxton, Rex Hadnot

RG – Deuce Lutui, Rex Hadnot

RT – Brandon Keith, Jeremy Bridges

TE – Ben Patrick, Stephen Spach, Jim Dray

WR2 – Stephen Williams, Andre Roberts

QB – Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton

RB – T. Hightower, *B. Wells [knee], J. Wright, L. Stephens-Howling

FB – Reagan Maui’a

Defense: 3-4 Base

DE – Calais Campbell, *Kenny Iwebema [knee]

NT – Bryan Robinson, Gabe Watson, Dan Williams

DT – Darnell Dockett, Alan Branch

ROLB – Joey Porter

RILB – *Paris Lenon [tail bone], Reggie Walker

LILB – Daryl Washington, Reggie Walker

LOLB – *Clark Haggans [heel], *Will Davis [head]

RCB – Greg Toler, Trumaine McBride, A.J. Jefferson

LCB – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Michael Adams, Brandon McDonald

SS – Adrian Wilson, Matt Ware, *Hamza Abdullah [hamstring]

FS – Kerry Rhodes, Rashad Johnson

Chargers’ Week 4 Depth Chart / Injury Report

Offense:

WR1 – *Malcom Floyd [leg], Patrick Crayton

LT – Brandyn Dombrowski, Tyronne Green

LG – Kris Dielman

C – Nick Hardwick, Scott Mruczkowski

RG – Lois Vasquez

RT – Jeromey Clary, Adam Terry

TE – Antonio Gates, Randy McMichael, Kris Wilson

WR2 – Legedu Naanee, Buster Davis

QB – Phillip Rivers, Billy Volek, J.T. O’Sullivan

RB – ^Ryan Matthews [ankle], Darren Sproles, Mike Tolbert

FB – Jacob Hester, Mike Tolbert

Defense: 3-4 Base

LDE – Jacques Cesaire, Travis Johnson

NT – Antonio Garay, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Cam Thomas

RDE – Luis Castillo, Alfonso Boone, Vaughn Martin

LOLB – Shaun Phillips, Antwan Applewhite, Brandon Lang

LILB – *Stephen Cooper [knee], Brandon Siler

RILB – Kevin Burnett, James Holt

ROLB – Shawne Merriman, ^J. Tucker [non-injury]

LCB – Quentin Jammer, Donald Strickland

FS – Eric Weddle, Paul Oliver, C.J. Spillman

SS – Steve Gregory, Darrell Stuckey

RCB – Antoine Cason, Fred Bennett

AccuScore Projection:

Chargers 80% favorite over Cardinals 20% underdog.

Average Scores: Cardinals – 17.2, Chargers – 29.7

Head to Head Since 2001: Cardinals have a 1-2 record.

December 31, 2006: ARI 20 @ SDG 27

September 22, 2002: SDG 23 @ ARI 15

November 25, 2001: ARI 20 @ SDG 17

Chargers’ Notable Returning Personnel:

  • QB, Phillip Rivers
  • TE, Antonio Gates
  • LB, Shawne Merriman
  • WR, Malcom Floyd
  • RB, Darren Sproles
  • DE, Luis Castillo
  • CB, Quentin Jammer
  • WR, Vincent Jackson* (holdout)

Chargers’ Notable Losses:

  • RB, LaDanian Tomlinson
  • NT, Jamal Williams
  • TE, Brandon Manumaleuna
  • CB, Antonio Cromartie
  • QB, Charlie Whitehurst

Chargers’ Notable Additions:

  • RB, Ryan Matthews
  • CB, Antoine Cason
  • SS, Darrell Stuckey

Cardinals vs. Chargers 2010 Rankings:

TEAM OFFENSE TEAM AVERAGE
Total Yards ARI 291.0
SDG 461.0
Yards Passing ARI –   25th 174.3
SDG – 2nd 345.0
Yards Rushing ARI –  13th 116.3
SDG – 12th 116.3
TEAM DEFENSE TEAM AVERAGE
Yards Allowed ARI 377.7
SDG 272.7
Pass Yds Allowed ARI – 19th 231.3
SDG – 6th 181.3
Rush Yds Allowed ARI – 31st 146.3
SDG – 9th 91.3

 


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