A glance at five top storylines for Sunday’s Cardinals-Jaguars game in Jacksonville:
- Running to win
It’s simple, really. The Jaguars are last in the NFL in run defense. The Cardinals are slowly finding a rhythm to their running game. It isn’t smooth yet, but the run – and screen passes – played heavily into both offensive touchdowns last game. The Cardinals want more big chunk plays and to get
- One-dimensional Jags
Top wide receiver Cecil Shorts is battling a groin pull. Former top receiver Justin Blackmon is suspended for the season. Chad Henne is playing quarterback because Blaine Gabbert washed out. The Cardinals have also been one of the top teams in creating pressure against quarterbacks. Forcing the Jaguars to pass would seem ideal. It doesn’t hurt that the Cards are third in the league in rushing defense. Maurice Jones-Drew can still get it done running the ball, but Jacksonville doesn’t have much to block with – and the Cards must take advantage.
- Providing no hope
The Jaguars are coming off their first win of the season. But the fact remains they have yet to score an offensive touchdown at home and haven’t won two straight games since 2010. This is a team that can probably be sapped of their will with a quick Cardinals’ start. Sounds simple. It may just be.
- The (long) trip east
The worries about a trip far east are more muted than what they used to be. The Cards head out today for the flight to Florida, and will have more than a day to acclimate to the time. Hopefully that helps for a kickoff time that will be 11 a.m. for the players’ Arizona-timed bodies. The last time the Cards played east, the had a terrible first half in Tampa – yet the team stayed in Florida that whole week previous, so the early kick was not an excuse. Bottom line, good teams find a way to get past such things.
- Into the playoff hunt
The reality is this: The Cardinals have a chance to go 6-4 against a 1-8 team. A more winnable road game the Cards will not find. Meanwhile, the 49ers must visit New Orleans and a San Francisco loss would put them at 6-4. Few would have guessed after 10 games there would be the possibility the Niners and Cardinals would have the same record. Regardless, a Cardinals’ win puts Bruce Arians’ team right where it wants to be, which is in control of its own destiny when it comes to the postseason.