Buffalo Bills (4-0) at Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
Sunday, October 5, 2008 - 4:15 PM EDT
SB Nation's Cardinals coverage: Revenge of the Birds
The 4-0 (how great does that sound?!?) Buffalo Bills head out to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals in a tough intra-conference matchup. The Bills are looking to move to 5-0 for the first time since 1991 and for just the fourth time in franchise history. Below are my keys to a Bills victory and a perfect record heading into the bye week:
Harass Kurt Warner: Pretty self-explanatory, but do whatever is necessary to get after Warner. Blitz him from any and all angles, run stunts, create pressure up the middle, hit him with a 2x4, etc. Simply put, pressure and harass him, and he will turn the ball over. We cannot allow him to sit back in the pocket because he will pick us apart and hit his talented wideouts. He's as good as it gets when given the time to throw; it's time for us to have a game like the Jets D just had against him last week. To do so, we have to get after him. I like the Aaron Schobel vs Mike Gandy matchup. If there is ever a game for Schobel to look like a Pro Bowler, it's this week against our old turnstile, Gandy.
Live on the Edge: Don't let Warner beat us; instead, force Edgerrin James to crank out the yards. He's nowhere near the explosive runner he used to be and it may be in our defense's best interest to go the nickel route and challenge the Cardinals to beat us by running it. I have no concern about James and the Cards' running game, so it is likely we focus on stopping the Cardinals through the air and take our chances against the Edge.
Take Fitzgerald out of the game: Easier said than done, I'd say. With Anquan Boldin more than likely out of this game, Larry Fitzgerald will be the apple of Kurt Warner's eye. And he could very well destroy our secondary if given the opportunity. Because of that, I would focus heavily on shutting him down, shading a safety (likely Ko Simpson) toward him early and often. With Terrence McGee out, we'll have to provide help to Jabari Greer and the young corners, Leodis McKelvin and Ashton Youboty. I'll take my chances with Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban rather than letting Fitzgerald run free.
Control the line of scrimmage...offensively: There comes a time when the OL has to step up their play and finally hit their potential. We've been so far from that level the past few weeks, but this is a good week for them to return to form. Darnell Dockett is a very good player for the Cards, but their other starters are nothing to be overly scared of: Gabe Watson, Antonio Smith and Travis LaBoy (sorry Cards fans, don't kill me). They have actually been quite solid this year stopping the run and getting after the QB, so despite their anonymity, they have been effective. The linebackers, led by Karlos Dansby, are pretty solid, so it will take a strong effort from our big nasties to control the game. WIth the way they've played recently, I have a feeling that pride will kick in and they will finally have a big game, instead of a big quarter or two like we've been experiencing.
Show Lee Evans off: Having signed Evans to a brand new, big time contract extension, I think fans around the league would like to see whether Evans is worth that type of money or not. This is the perfect week for Evans to have a big time game to prove to everyone how good he can be. With a semi-hobbled Eric Green, a rather solid, but unspectacular Rod Hood and the young Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie manning the CB spots for Arizona, Evans will have enough opportunities to excel this week. The deep ball was a major concern for the Cardinals D last week, so that looks to be an area Trent Edwards needs to attack this week. Like I say every week, get Lee into it early. I'd love to see him finally have an 8+ catch game.
Dominate Special Teams: This should be a close game which could come down to Special Teams. The Bills should have a significant advantage in all areas of the "third phase", and this is an area to excel in this week. Steve Breaston is a solid punt returner, but overall hasn't had much success returning kicks or punts this year. Dirk Johnson is a mediocre punter who will give McKelvin and Fred Jackson opportunities to return punts, so the blocking needs to remain as strong as it has all season there. As a unit, the Cardinals have been one of the bottom teams in the league this year, while the Bills rank near the top, per usual. This would be a good week for McKelvin to break that big kick return we've all been waiting for.
This is a big game for the Bills and a win would leave a great taste in their mouth heading into the bye. It is also another opportunity for the team to show that they are a contender this year and are able to win tough games, including tough games on the road. Go Bills, and let's make it 5-0!
Stay tuned to Buffalo Rumblings and tomorrow's Open Game Thread for the "live chat" during today's big game with the Cardinals! That thread will open approximately an hour before the 4:15 PM EDT kickoff. Until then, GO BILLS!