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Week 11 Preview: Cardinals @ Chiefs

Season Records:

Cardinals: 3-6, 3rd in NFC West (tied), Last Week: L vs. Seattle, 36-18

Chiefs: 5-4, 1st in AFC West (tied), Last Week: L @ Denver, 49-29


Sunday, November 21, 1:00 p.m., EST, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO

The Difference a Week Can Make:

The Week 10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks was obviously devastating.  Arizona was hoping to march into Arrowhead with a share of first place at 4-5.  Instead, they limp in to face their former offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, sporting a 3-6 record with little or no chance at capturing the NFC West title.   With very little to play for, this game could get really ugly for the Cardinals, especially since the Chiefs are right in the thick of a division race themselves against the Oakland Raiders of all teams.

The Chiefs are Hungry:

Last week, Kansas City was absolutely lit up by their division rival, the Denver Broncos, which won’t make things any easier for Arizona.  Denver put up 49 points on a strong Kansas City defense that currently ranks 19th overall, a rank which obviously took a hit given the 49 point romp.  Still, the Chiefs rank 13th in rushing yards allowed per game (104.4) and 22nd in passing yards allowed per game (240.2).  Further, they only allow 21.6 points per game (15th in the NFL), which again took a huge hit against Denver.

The defense is anchored by their talented linebackers, including OLB Tamba Hali (28 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 2 FF) and ILB Derrick Johnson (77 tackles, 3 FF, 1 INT).  Arizona’s offense is 31st in the league so they don’t have far to fall, but they could finally lose their toe-hold over the Carolina Panthers and drop to last against this Kansas City unit that is no doubt worked up over their effort last week in Denver.

Things won’t get any easier for the Cardinals on the other side of the ball.  Kansas City has the premier rushing offense in the league.  They rank number one in rushing yards per game with a whopping 165.3.  Leading the way is Jamaal Charles with 760 yards on just 127 carries for a 6.0 yards/carry with two touchdowns.  Fellow running back, Thomas Jones, who started his career in Arizona, compliments Charles’ production.  Jones has racked up 573 yards on 141 carries with three touchdowns.  The Cardinals’ defense will certainly have their hands full with this tandem considering Arizona sports the 28th ranked rushing defense in the NFL.  It’s almost literally a first against worst scenario on the ground.

Things ease up a little for the Cardinals’ defense through the air, as the Chiefs’ passing game doesn’t come close to the production of its run game.  Quarterback Matt Cassel, though, has had a great season statistically, which is evidence by his 94.5 passer rating.  He’s completed 158 of 267 attempts for 1,881 yards, with a 59.2 completion percentage.  In addition, Cassel has thrown 16 touchdowns against just 4 interceptions.

Kansas City is a little short on receiving talent outside of Dwayne Bowe (39 receptions, 606 yards, 9 TDs), though.  Fellow wide receivers Dexter McCluster (rookie) and Chris Chambers haven’t proven to be reliable targets, though McCluster’s future seems bright.  The rookie has already stamped his arrival in the NFL with great production as a punt returner, including a 96-yard return for a touchdown, though Javier Arenas has taken over the job to preserve McCluster as a receiver.  Tight end Tony Moeaki (31 receptions, 378 yards, 1 TD) contributes, but he can’t carry an offense like an Antonio Gates.

Arizona’s Banged up Offense takes it on the Road:

As for the Cardinals, this game could be even uglier than last week.  For one, Arizona is on the road where they’ve typically played their worst football, allowing 28.8 points per game, which is good for a 1-4 road record this season.  To make matters worse, the entire running back core, with the exception of Tim Hightower, is injured.  Beanie Wells, Jason Wright, and LaRod Stephens-Howling are all uncertain for Sunday.  As a result, Arizona re-signed running back Alfonso Smith, who never made the Cardinals’ 53-man roster after the pre-season.  In addition, the Cardinals learned that starting right tackle Brandon Keith tore his hamstring against Seattle in the first quarter, but played the entire game with the injury, which is amazing.  Keith has been placed on IR and it appears that veteran Jeremy Bridges will take his place.

The Bottom Line:

Arizona is 1-4 on the road and the Kansas City Chiefs are 4-0 at home; do the math.  There’s a slight chance that the Cardinals declare that they’ve sunk low enough, but this team has lost four in a row, they have no offense, and their defense has completely imploded.  It would take something special indeed to pull out a road victory in Week 11 against a talented and no doubt angry Chiefs team.

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