On September 17, 2017 the Indianapolis Colts will host the Arizona Cardinals. In this week two match up I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea for what we’re up against. The Cardinals have an aging offense and Bruce Arians has struggled with health issues of his own. The last time our Colts played a Bruce Arians led Cardinals team things didn’t go so well. A lot of faces have changed for both teams since 2013, hopefully that turnover gives us a better chance this time around. Let’s figure out what we can expect in week two.
In my last article we looked at the Cardinals defense and I mentioned that I asked Cards fans why 2016 offered a losing record and the 2015 team went 13-3. The answer I got was special teams.
I know isn’t the entire story but I’ve heard it said time and time again that if you’re relying on a kicker to win a game for you, you probably should have just scored a touchdown instead. While that’s absolutely true, special teams is the third phase of the game and specialists get paid too. So what happened?
In 2016 the Cardinals employed three different punters. They all sucked. Seriously collectively they averaged 41.9 yards per punt. Average isn’t the end all be all of punting, situational punting can limit your average, but 41.9 was good for last in the NFL. Situational punting doesn’t account for that.
There were 48 NCAA punters that averaged more than 41.9 yards per punt in 2016. As a team the Cardinals had a net of 37.0 yards per punt. Also last in the NFL.
To fix that issue they brought in veteran punter Andy Lee.
Lee was averaging 49.1 yards per punt last year before getting hurt. Any field position issues the Cardinals may have found themselves in 2016 should disappear with Lee.
Last season the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Patriots by 2 points, to the Dolphins by 3, and tied with the Seahawks. In those games their kicker Chandler Catanzaro went a combined 3-for-7 on field goal attempts and 3-of-5 on extra points.
Had he hit his lone field goal attempt in their game against the Pats, the Cardinals finish 8-7-1. Had he hit either of his missed field goal attempts in their week 7, prime-time game against the Seahawks, the Cardinals finish 9-7. Had he hit either of his extra point tries as well as the field goal he missed against the Dolphins, the Cardinals finish 10-6 and make the playoffs.
Also, had he done those things he would have tied for 13th in the league making 85.7% of his field goals. It would have also tied him for 17th in the league making 93.6% of his extra points. Meaning if the Cardinals had an average kicker in 2016, they very well could have been in the playoffs.
*If you need further proof that the New York Jets are actually tanking, their kicker this year; Chandler Catanzaro.
- An average kicker:
Ladies and Gentlemen: Phil Dawson.
The Cardinals went out and literally signed a guy who finished 13th in the league making 85.7% of his field goals. I don’t think they signed him because they realized that’s the mark Catanzaro needed to hit to send them to the playoffs, but a guy can dream right?
These are the “if” guys of our match-up. If they live up to they hype, draft position or past success they could impact the game in a big way. This week I believe the biggest wildcards are Budda Baker and Robert Nkemdiche.
We looked at Baker and how the Cardinals may look to use him when we looked at the Cardinals defense. I’m told that if he’s ready to play a role early in his NFL career, his physical tools could impact the game in a big way. He may still be adjusting to the speed of the game in week 2, but he has all the tools to make a few memorable plays.
Robert Nkemdiche didn’t have much of an impact in his rookie year. He didn’t play much either. If his play in the 2017 preseason is any indication of the player Nkemdiche is, he could have a field day against our offensive line.
Final Thoughts For The Week
The Cardinals are a good team who had a bad year. Special teams and bad breaks limited their overall record. Assuming they have fixed their issues kicking footballs the Cards will look to change their luck going into week 2.
Look for the Colts to struggle to move the ball but find some success getting receivers open. We can also expect the Cardinals to move the ball well on offense. On paper this match up isn’t pretty.
This is going to be a rough game for Colts fans. The Cardinals will be looking to make a statement and bounce back from their week one loss. Given that they will be without David Johnson it might take the Cardinals a drive or two to settle in and find their rhythm, but once they do it’s going to be all Cards all day. Our Colts are looking at an 0-2 start.
I wanted to add a segment that will cover our draft positioning as the year progresses. No, I’m not suggesting that we throw the season or that we should all look forward to the draft. Rather I hope that this will allow us all to be aware of next off-season and realize how much our 2018 outlook can change from week to week.
I would like to point out a really cool site that covers the NBA, NHL and NFL: Tankathon. It has a funny name but it serves a cool purpose, weeding out tie breakers to show who is slated to draft where.
2018 Colts Draft Position Post Week One:
A top 5 pick wouldn’t suck for a team desperate for talent, it’s just that the next six months getting to the number five pick, absolutely will.