Are you ready Cardinals’ fans? 20 years of the ‘same old Cardinals’ and the anguish that has coupled it will come to a peak on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. In a mere 6 minutes the game was sold out. We are the 12<sup>th</sup> Man. Get loud. Get crazy. Get a win.
The key to shutting down the Panthers was containing the run game. After their first possession, the Panthers looked to be headed towards the result they achieved 8 times at home this year: victory. But then the Cards’ D showed how vicious they can be. 5 interceptions and a fumble recovery later, Carolina was eliminated to the tune of a 33-13 Cardinals ass kicking. That triumph, along with a Philadelphia Eagles win over the reigning Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, means one thing. Now we play for the NFC Championship. At home.
I feel like most Cardinals fans do right now. I am shocked and unsure. As a 26 year old I have never seen the Cards do anything (minus 1 playoff win against Dallas in the ’97 season). This is a team that has one playoff victory in 61 seasons. They are the only NFC team never to make the championship game since the merger 39 years ago. I don’t understand these feelings that I am feeling. I do not know what it is like to care about football this late in a season. I am normally a playoff spectator, watching the NFL as a fan of the game, not a fan of a team. This is awesome.
Onto Sunday’s game against the Eagles. This team destroyed us on Thanksgiving night, evoking upset stomachs across the Grand Canyon State. McNabb was starting after being benched the previous game, and he led his team to a 48-20 victory. Now normally I am a pessimistic Cards fan, but I feel optimistic about this one. Why? The Cardinals played that game after 3 days of rest following a game against the very physical Giants. They also had to travel 2340 miles and two times zones to play them. Excuses? No. But probable reasons.
So what is the key to beating the Eagles and, dare I say, advancing to the Super Bowl. Containment. The Cardinals defense has looked phenomenal as of late, and pressing McNabb into bad decisions (a la Jake Delhomme) is a must. What hurt the Cardinals in the Week 13 was Brian Westbrook. Spy this guy, cover this guy, and destroy this guy. If Anquan Boldin can take the field, the advantage swings drastically in our favor. Know this: there is no way the Eagles are going to leave Larry Fitzgerald as open as the Carolina Panthers did. No way.
Playing at home is a massive advantage in the NFC Championship game. The home team has won the game 68% of the time. We will not travel back to the left coast for this one. We got them right here in our backyard, where the Cardinals (including the NFC Wild Card win over the Atlanta Falcons) are 7-2 this year. Let’s continue this trend.
So how do I see it playing out? That Philly defense, which hasn’t allowed more than 14 points since they played the Cardinals, will not dominate as much as many people think. They are great against the run, but we are a passing team.
My pick: Arizona 34, Philadelphia 27.
Get loud Cardinals fans. Make their ears bleed.