MNF: Top five reasons Arizona will cover


Admit it. You think this is going to be a bloodbath, don`t you?

I used to think that too before my research showed me the Cardinals can cover a touchdown, a field goal and the spare change against the Chicago Bears.

That`s not asking too much from a team with a smart rookie quarterback. Just look at what Bruce Gradkowski did Sunday in Tampa Bay.

Who`s to say Matt Leinart can`t do the same with the 11 points the Cardinals are getting?

Think what you will. Oddsmakers don`t have crystal balls because if they did, they would know the spread for tonight`s game is a little off.

Here`s why:

5. Special delivery

Before Edgerrin James moved in, there used to be a guy by the name of J.J. Arrington who handled the rock for Arizona. He does make an appearance on occasion, but more often than not you’ll find this second-year back returning kicks. Lots of them.

Arrington leads the league with 27 kickoff returns and kickoff return yards at 601. There’s likely a correlation between Arizona’s defense and Arrington’s numbers, but the field position this return specialist creates will be huge for the Cardinals.

In three home games, Arrington has averaged 25 yards per return.

4. The roof...

With temperatures expected to hover around the mid 70’s and low 80’s, the roof at the new Cardinals Stadium, now named University of Phoenix Stadium, could be open for the first time this season Monday night.

Rain is also a possibility so the Cardinals are unsure what they`ll do. They have up to 90 minutes before kickoff to figure things out, but should open the roof regardless. A wet, rainy field creates the potential for more points off of turnovers for both sides. It also helps stunt Chicago’s devastating running game too.

But if they do keep the roof closed, that won`t help the Bears either.

Teams like the Bears typically struggle indoors, like dome teams would on the frozen tundra of Soldier Field. Chicago’s only loss against the number this season came indoors to the Minnesota Vikings. By all accounts Chicago should have lost that game, but capitalized on a late turnover to pull off the three-point win.

Over the last five years, Chicago is 14-12-1 ATS and 12-14 SU indoors.

3. Get a grip

Thomas Jones had better hold on tight. This could be a bumpy ride.

It’s no secret Lovie Smith and the Bears want to run the ball so they’re not caught off guard in the playoffs like last year. It is a secret, though, that the Cardinals have some of the most dangerous run stoppers in the league.

Arizona, which ranks 22nd in stopping the run, has forced opposing running backs into 10 fumbles already this year. Only Philadelphia with 13 has done better.

Again, if the roof is open and the rain is falling this will create even more problems for the Bears. Chicago is already giving Cedric Benson a ton of work. He already has 46 carries after getting a total of 67 last year.

2. Running wild

Go ahead. Take a guess at where the Bears run defense ranks. Top five? Maybe top 10?

Try 18.

OK, so I lied. It’s not the rank of Chicago’s overall run defense. Rather, it`s where the Bears rank in average yards per carry against. At 3.9 teams are finding the holes, yet have only gained 381 total rushing yards. That’s only 98 carries through the first five weeks against run-heavy teams like Minnesota, Buffalo and Green Bay.

Apparently, teams are so scared of Chicago’s reputation that they’re opting to throw the ball in hopes of beating the deepest secondary in the NFL.

That’s where Edge comes in.

Asking a rookie quarterback to handle the Bears defense by himself is like asking Art Shell for coaching advice. To take pressure off Leinart, the Cardinals will likely lean on James a little more to help limit the turnovers and keep Chicago’s offense off the field.

Playing behind a weak offensive line will be tough for James, who ranks third among running backs with 112 carries. But if there’s one game the Cardinals can use to shut their running back up for his barking about not being used when it counts, it’s Monday night.

1. The Matt Leinart challenge

Of course Matt Leinart is staying mum about the Bears defense. The last thing he wants is to end up in a mangled pile that oddly resembles the train wreck that is the Arizona Cardinals this season.

“Sometimes we try to get too ahead of ourselves, all of us,” Leinart told reporters earlier this week. “The game is a simple game.”

I’m not sure if Leinart checked the schedule or if he’s just playing it cool. But I like his calm demeanor. You see, Leinart loves these kinds of games; the ones where a solid showing on Monday night, against the undefeated Bears, would move him from former USC quarterback to NFL starting quarterback.

He needs that more than an offensive line.

Still not convinced about the Cardinals? Then check out Andrew Folkes’ top five reasons the Bears will cover.

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