Showdown in the Desert

Following an extremely improbable road victory in Miami just six days earlier, the Colts will try for a repeat on Sunday as they head to Arizona for a game against the defending NFC Champions. While temperatures are expected to exceed 100 degrees, the Cardinals are not expected to announce whether the stadium roof will be opened or closed, until 90 minutes before kickoff. One would think that the Cardinals organization would not want to expose their own players to those kinds of conditions, but what an advantage that would have to be for the Cardinals (who practice outdoors on most occasions) against a Colts defense that played the kind of minutes they did on Monday night.

It will be interesting to see how the Colts defense responds following their performance against the Dolphins. The Cardinals do not possess the kind of rushing game that Miami did, but have shown signs early this season of improving in that area with the addition of Beanie Wells into the backfield. Neither team places an emphasis on the rushing game, but would like to be able to establish at least the threat of one, in order to open up the passing game. The Cardinals rank 24th in the league in rushing attempts per game (22.5) while the Colts come in at 28th at only 21 attempts per game. The play-action pass is a key component in the success of both teams passing attack.

The biggest threat will come in the passing game, with Kurt Warner throwing the ball to arguably the best receiving corps in all of the NFL. Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston will be a tough matchup for the Colts secondary, especially with the injury situation at that position. Jarrard Powers is expected back to be back in the starting lineup, but Kelvin Hayden is still nursing the hamstring (expected to play) and Marlin Jackson is still only playing limited time as he works his way back into NFL shape. Expect Tim Jennings and Jacob Lacey to get plenty of playing time as the Colts try to slow down this potent Cardinals aerial attack.

One of the keys to doing so will stem from how successful the Colts are at getting pressure on Kurt Warner, while NOT giving up any big plays in the running game. This one could easily turn into a shootout as the Colts rank 3rd in passing yards per game (294.5), while the Cardinals rank 7th ( 262.0). They are ranked 4th (69.7) and 5th (68.9) in completion percentage with Warner edging out Peyton by less than one percentage point. Peyton is however, number one in the league at passing yardage per attempt at 9.9yds per, impacted greatly by his performance on Monday night.

From a career standpoint, Peyton Manning is 2nd all time in career QB rating at 94.9, while Kurt Warner is 3rd with a 93.8 rating. Warner is the career leader in passing yards per game (262.4) while Peyton is second on that list averaging 259.7 per contest. They are 2nd and 3rd on the career completion percentage list with Warner also holding the advantage at 65.5 versus 64.5 for Peyton.

It will be only the second time that the two future Hall of Fame QBs have competed against each other – Warner won first contest 42-17 (December ’01) on his way to his second Super Bowl with the Rams.

If you like offense – this should be a fun one to watch.

COLTS 31 – Cardinals 24

GO HORSE!

Warner is the NFL career leader in yards passing per game (262.4). Manning is second (259.7). Manning is second in career quarterback rating (94.9) – behind only Steve Young (96.8) – and Warner is No. 3 (93.8). They are second (Warner 65.5) and third (Manning 64.5) in NFL career completion percentage.


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