About 24 hours remain before kickoff for the Cardinals-Falcons playoff game as we await news on the potential sellout/blackout. EDIT: The game is indeed a sellout. As with every Friday, I thought it was time to clean out the notebook for some final pre-game tidbits:
-- The game will not be determined in the first quarter, I don't think. But you are talking about a couple of teams that thrive when the first quarter goes well. The Falcons have a very clear delineation – they are 11-0 this season when they score first, and 0-5 when they don't. The Cardinals, meanwhile, know all about lousy starts – see Philly, Minnesota, New England – and can't afford the same.
"When we have played our best games is when we have started well, when we have done something offensively early, gotten them out on a three-and-out defensively early," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Where we are as a team right now, that would help us. Plus it would get the crowd in the game."
-- When a couple of reporters tracked down Edgerrin James this week, we knew he wouldn't beat around the bush. That's not Edge. He was scarce earlier in the week, but Wednesday he said he'd be available Thursday and there he was. Say what you want about him, but ever since he showed up (and I sat down with him for an extended interview in 2006) it's been hard not to find him engaging and charismatic. He's also incredibly smart, moreso than most give him credit for.
His days here are numbered, I would guess (and at this point, so would everyone) but I don't doubt that he is driven to have a big postseason if possible. Whether he can or whether the Cards' offense can help him turn that in, we will see. But whatever his issues were/are, they won't affect him on the field.
-- Speaking of the running game, the offensive line will be another Cardinal key. All five guys started every game, a rare occurrence in today's NFL. They, as a unit, remain confident too, especially in an ability to run if the Cards do it enough. "Our results speak for themselves," guard Reggie Wells acknowledged about the Cards being last in the NFL in rushing. "Wherever we finish up ranked, and whatever, you can't argue with that. But there was never, in our minds, a question."
Whisenhunt talked this week about how the group never complained about all the pass blocking, which is exactly what most linemen don't want to do (plow ahead and maul on a run, or backpedal as a nifty end tries to get around you? You make the call).
-- The X-factor tomorrow? Maybe it's the Q factor. I would guess Anquan Boldin isn't 100 percent healthy but after two games and three weeks without being hit, I would also guess Boldin is as healthy has he has been in a while. And while the Falcons have totally revamped their defense, don't forget Q torched them for 13 catches, 162 yards and two scores last season. My guess is the Falcons haven't.
-- The Maximum Cardinals TV show has had a time change for the weekend because of the Saturday afternoon game. Max Cards will air at 5:30 a.m. Saturday (set those DVRs) on ABC 15. It will also be on AzTV (Channel 13 on cable) tonight at 10:30 and on FSN Arizona at 8 a.m. Saturday. The show includes the Cards' top plays of 2008.
-- That's it for now. Next time you'll hear from me it'll be during the Kia NFL Kickoff Show on Sports 620 KTAR Saturday morning at 11 a.m., previewing an Arizona-Atlanta playoff game that no one predicted before the season. "That's the beauty of it," James said. "If it was everything everyone picked, there is no reason to play the game. We might as well start in January. You never know what will happen, or who will be in the playoffs or who will be in the Super Bowl."
Did someone say Super Bowl? OK, OK, that's getting (way) ahead of ourselves. But you can't win if you don't play. And the Cardinals are playing.