It's getting exciting in the desert. The Arizona Cardinals are in the NFC playoff hunt and face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. A huge game. Let's take a look at their matchup:
The Colts lead the AFC South and own a 4-1 road record this season. They are led, of course, by quarterback Andrew Luck, a talented passer and dangerous runner. The University of Stanford product has tossed 14 touchdowns with six interceptions this season while adding 231 rushing yards (a 5.6 YPC average). Luck also has four rushing touchdowns as well. He is the engine that makes the Colts run, no doubt.
Trent Richardson has been a huge disappointment since being acquired from Cleveland earlier this season. Halfback Donald Brown has actually been the more effective running back, averaging 5.9 yards per carry with three touchdowns. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne is out for the rest of the season but T.Y. Hilton (46-707-5) is a very dangerous deep threat and must be accounted for. Patrick Peterson should be matched up against him which should be a lot of fun to watch. Tight end Coby Fleener (37-439-3) is one of Luck's favorite targets and the Cards have struggled against tight ends.
Defensively, the Colts are vulnerable against the run – they rank 28th in rushing defense, allowing 126 yards per game. Indianapolis ranks 16th against the pass but linebacker Robert Mathis leads the NFL with 13.5 sacks. The Cardinals offensive line will have quite a challenge protecting quarterback Carson Palmer from the hard-charging Mathis. They may keep an extra tight end or back in to provide more maximum protection for Palmer.
The Cardinals are flying high on a three-game winning streak and are tied with the San Francisco 49ers for second place in the NFC West. They're in the wild card hunt and this is the biggest game in the desert in several years.
Carson Palmer has played very well of late – he threw for a season-high 419 years last week against Jacksonville and did not throw an interception for the first time all season. The USC product has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes the last three games and seems to have found a nice rhythm with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. The talented Floyd had his breakout game against the Jags with six receptions for 193 yards and a TD. Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald should enjoy solid games as should tight end Rob Housler, who has shown improvement of late with 22 receptions in his last four games with a touchdown.
Andre Ellington and Rashard Mendenhall could be productive as well since the Colts are so poor against the run (28th,per above). Defensively, the Red Birds must put pressure on Luck but also make sure they have a linebacker and safety ready to help in case he starts to scramble, which he does quite often. The Cardinals rank second in the league in rushing defense (81.4 YPG) and are led by linebacker Karlos Dansby,who leads the team in tackles by far with 83. He has also added three sacks and a fumble recovery and is playing at a Pro Bowl level.
Prediction: This is a tough one. Could go either way. A very late Jay Feely field goal wins it in a thrilling game. Cardinals 24, Colts 23.
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