Arizona Cardinals (Getty)
The Cardinals will confront some familiar demons Saturday night in Carolina, and not all of them will be playing for the Panthers. It's another trip East for the Cardinals, who have had a miserable time winning when traveling across two or more time zones. They are 0-5 this year in the Eastern time zone, including a 27-23 loss at Carolina in October.
Over the last six years, the Cardinals are 2-19 in games played in the Eastern time zone.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt had no idea how difficult it was for a western team to travel East when he took the Arizona job three years ago. He spent his playing and coaching careers in the East and Midwest, so the challenges of flying East surprised him.
Over the first half of the year, Eastern terms are three hours ahead of Arizona time. That means Sunday games often start at 10 a.m. Arizona time.
Whisenhunt has tried to combat that by flying east two days early, and he even had his team stay on the East Coast between games this year against the Redskins and Jets.
It didn't work, as the Cardinals lost both.
The Cardinals are confident they have matured enough to handle the rigors of the Carolina trip. But until they provide proof in the form a victory, questions will remain. After all, it's not easy for fans to forget the 40-point loss at New England just before Christmas and the 28-point loss at Philadelphia on Thanksgiving.
"If it is going to be better, this would be a great week for it, wouldn't it?" Whisenhunt quipped when asked about the road woes. "I wish I could tell you I had tangible evidence. Our last two games on the East Coast weren't so hot."
SERIES HISTORY: 9th meeting. Panthers lead, 6-2, including a 27-23 victory on Oct. 26 of this season. The Cardinals have lost five straight to Carolina, but three of those losses were by four points or less. The Cardinals led the game this season, 17-3, early in the third quarter, but two turnovers cost them down the stretch, as did a failed fake field goal, a botched extra point and settling for a field goal on first-and-goal at the 4. That game gave the club confidence it could beat a good team on the road, although it has yet to accomplish that.
--Assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm had a big week. First, his unit played one of its best games of the year against the Falcons. At mid-week, it was announced he was one of 17 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And later this week, he will interview for the Jets head-coaching job.
"I'm not even worried about it right now," Grimm said of the interview. "I've got one job to do and that's making sure our guys are ready to go Saturday night against Carolina."
--You can see the headline now: "Kurt Warner hates Puppies." Not really, but Warner said he's been cornered into getting his kids a puppy should the Cardinals win the Super Bowl. "My wife (Brenda) kind of put words in my mouth and told them if we won the Super Bowl, they could get a puppy. I want to win the Super Bowl, but I still don't want to get a puppy."
Said coach Ken Whisenhunt: "I hope he gets a puppy."
--The victory over the Falcons was the most-watched television show in the Phoenix area this football season. The game drew a 48 share and a rating of 25.4. It took the Cardinals a long time to sell the game out, however, as the league granted two extensions to the blackout deadline.
--RB Edgerrin James is trying to take the high road on the subject of his return to the starting lineup. But he didn't agree with his benching and still doesn't. "When you sign up to play in the NFL, you've got to take the good with the bad. Throughout my career, everything has been easy, and finally you get some adversity. Did I deserve that adversity? No, I'll never agree with that."
--Only winning the Super Bowl with the Steelers three years ago surpassed the satisfaction coach Ken Whisenhunt felt as his team ran out the clock against the Falcons last week. It was "one of the most rewarding moments for me in football," Whisenhunt said. "When we won the Super Bowl and we knew we were going to win right there at the end, there is no feeling quite like that. But to know you have a home playoff game and you're going to win it, that was special."
BY THE NUMBERS: 17 -- That's the number of fumble recoveries the Cardinals had this season, the most in the league. Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams hasn't fumbled this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "All I want to do is play right now. I'm not going to think about that or entertain those thoughts because we've got a chance to do something great right now and talking about stuff like that can only take away from things." -- RB Edgerrin James on his future with the team.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--K Neil Rackers missed a 51 yarder last week but coach Ken Whisenhunt took the blame because he decided to go for the field goal late and the play clock was winding down.
--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has shown steady progress throughout the season. He has five interceptions, including one last week when he shadowed Roddy White the entire game.
--RB Edgerrin James has been productive the past two weeks, mostly because he's been given the chance. James played little in the seven games before that, so there's not question he's fresh and well rested.
--QB Kurt Warner handles the blitz well, although the Panthers got to him a couple of times in the meeting early this year. Warner needs to continue to do a nice of moving around the pocket and buying himself time.
--The Cardinals relied on a seven-man rotation on the defensive front against Atlanta last week, and they likely will employ it again Saturday. They will need to stay fresh against the Panthers, who will stick with the run throughout the game.