It's time for the Music City matchup. The Arizona Cardinals travel to LP Field in Nashville to face the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon.
This is a huge game for the Red Birds as they try and keep their playoff hopes alive. Let's take a look at their matchup:
The Titans, losers of seven of their last nine, start two rookies on their offensive line (Brian Schwenke and first round pick Chance Warmack) so they have to be prepared for the pressure Arizona will dial up from their front seven, especially John Abraham. The Titans will try and establish the run behind speedy Chris Johnson and power back Shonn Greene. Johnson ranks 13th in the NFL with 820 rushing yards and he's added 277 receiving yards – he's very dangerous on screen passes because of his dynamic speed. He has scored eight total touchdowns. Greene is used quite often as a goal-line back.
Tennessee's quarterback is the bearded Ryan Fitzpatrick, the former Buffalo Bill. The veteran signal-caller has thrown nine touchdown passes with eight interceptions since taking over for injured starter Jake Locker. One of his favorite targets is tight end Delanie Walker (45-454-5), who is expected to return to play after missing last week with a concussion. The Cards have had trouble covering tight ends this season. Arizona's Patrick Peterson should be matched up on Kendall Wright, who has 73 receptions for 857 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Titans' aerial attack.
The Titans rank 11th in the league in pass defense and have allowed the fewest TD passes in the NFL. In contrast, the Titans have really struggled against the run, ranking 21st in the NFL. Only the Washington Redskins allow more rushing scores, which bodes very well for Arizona running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington.
The big news this week from Glendale is the loss of rookie free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who underwent surgery yesterday to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee. The LSU product suffered the injury last week against the Rams and will be sorely missed in the secondary. He'll hopefully be ready for training camp next summer.
Carson Palmer recovered nicely from his elbow injury and completed 27 of 32 passes for 269 yards and a TD (to Larry Fitzgerald) last week. If the offensive line, which has been better of late, gives the veteran quarterback adequate time to throw, his results are much better. Fitzgerald (67-774-10) is having another Pro Bowl season. Michael Floyd has been battling ankle and shoulder injuries but should be ready for this vital contest. Tight end Rob Housler (groin) has missed a few practices this week and is listed as questionable.
While Mendenhall and Ellington should take advantage of Tennessee's porous rush defense, the Titans should run up against a brick wall in Arizona's run defense which ranks third in the NFL, allowing just 84.5 YPG. In fact, the Red Birds are fifth in overall defense, allowing only 312 yards per game. Abraham had three sacks and a safety last week against the Rams and was named NFC Defensive Player of the week. Expect the veteran pass rusher to dial up the heat on Fitzgerald in a big way.
Prediction: Cardinals 24, Titans 16. Too much Abraham and Fitzgerald for the Titans to handle. No Music City Miracle this time around.
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