Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks says you “gotta learn how to hit the reset button and not linger on things”
The Cardinals meet the Chargers on Sunday at StubHub Center, a 30,000-seat venue originally built for soccer in Carson, Calif.
The game kicks off at 2:05 p.m. and is televised on Channel 10.
Bob McManaman offers his scouting report and prediction.
Cardinals on offense
It only took them until the ninth and 10th game of the season, but the Cardinals seem to finally have figured out how to deploy running back David Johnson, who has totaled 327 yards from scrimmage the past two weeks. Now, part of that might be explained by the fact Arizona was going against two run-porous defenses in Kansas City and Oakland, but there’s no doubt Johnson has got a lot of his swagger back after rushing for 98 yards and 137 yards and is making catches while lining up both in the slot and outside as a wide receiver.
The Chargers lost their leading tackler and starting inside linebacker Denzel Perryman to torn knee ligaments two weeks ago in a win over the Raiders. Kyle Emanuel, his replacement, can be tested if the Cardinals stick with their run game against the league’s 18th-ranked rush defense. The Cardinals are hoping left tackle D.J. Humphries returns to the starting lineup after missing last week’s game with a sore right knee. Rookie Korey Cunningham filled in admirably and there’s been talk that the seventh-round pick might push right tackle Andre Smith for the starting role. If the Cardinals hope to win their third game of the season, they need better ball security out of quarterback Josh Rosen, who has been intercepted 10 times. Rosen will have to be leery of Chargers’ defensive end Joey Bosa, who made his first appearance of the season last week after missing the first nine games with a foot injury. He might not be 100 percent, but he’s still a fierce pass rusher who can dominate a game.
Cardinals on defense
The Cardinals have to pick their poison. Do they invest everything they have in trying to stop the run and contain the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon, who ranks fifth in the league in rushing (741 yards) and is tied for fourth in touchdowns (seven)? Or do they rely mostly on their passing defense, which has climbed to fourth-best in the league (allowing 218 yards per game), and dare Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to beat them through the air? It’s doubtful Arizona can neutralize both.
One thing that would help is creating some turnovers. The Cardinals haven’t produced any in their last three games, which seems odd. Rivers has already nearly thrown for 3,000 yards (2,860) and he’s tied for fifth in touchdown passes (23). But he’s cut way back on his interceptions with only six thus far. This would be an ideal time for Arizona’s defensive front four to really create some disruption and pressure in the backfield, which can lead to mistakes and turnovers. The back end, meanwhile, needs to pay close attention to the Chargers’ top two wide receivers, Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams. The Cardinals’ secondary has been tested a lot lately and they’ve been burned. It cost cornerback Jamar Taylor his job this week. Fellow corner Patrick Peterson and safety Bene’ Benwikere both need bounce-back games or things could get ugly, especially if safety Budda Baker (knee) misses a second straight game.
The Chargers have a new kicker in Michael Badgley, who’s made all five of his field goal attempts since replacing veteran Caleb Sturgis. Sturgis was released after going three straight games with at least one missed field goal and an extra point, the first kicker to do that since 1979. Badgley did miss an extra point last last week and it proved to be the difference in a 23-22 loss to the Broncos. Cardinals’ kicker Phil Dawson missed last week’s game with a sore right hip and the team said he’s good to go Sunday. The Chargers have a dangerous return man in Desmond King II, who averages 21.3 yards per kickoff return and 11.5 yards per punt return with a long of 56. The Cardinals are finding success on kickoff returns since they wisely went back to T.J. Logan as their main returner. Punter Andy Lee leads the NFL with a 48.8-yard gross average and is on pace to break his own single-season record of 47.3, set a year ago.
There’s a good chance the Cardinals don’t win another game this season and as 12-point underdogs in this one, there’s no reason to even think about them possibly pulling off an upset. When you lose at home to the Raiders, you don’t deserve the slightest benefit of the doubt. It would take a series of monumental things falling the Cardinals’ way just for them to keep this game close and that’s asking for a lot. They’ll lose and fall to 2-9.
Prediction: Chargers 33, Cardinals 13
Arizona Cardinals (2-8) at San Diego Chargers (7-3)
When: 2:05 p.m.
Where: StubHub Center, Carson, Calif.
TV: Channel 10. Play-by-play: Chris Myers. Analyst: Daryl Johnston. Sideline: Laura Okmin.
Radio: KTAR-FM 92.3. Play-by-play: Dave Pasch. Analyst: Ron Wolfley. Sideline: Paul Calvisi.
Spanish radio: KHOV-FM 105.1. Play-by-play: Gabriel Trujillo. Analyst: Rolando Cantu.
Reach McManaman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac and listen to him live every Tuesday afternoon between 3-6 on 1580-AM The Fanatic with Roc and Manuch and every Wednesday afternoon between 1-3 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.
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