We haven't had this feature in a few weeks, and now seemed as good a time as any to bring it back given the developing rivalry between the 49ers and Cardinals. So, thanks to Andrew, who recently took over as the lead writer at Revenge of the Birds.
NN: I was looking over some of the Cardinals stats for the season, and considering how solid the Cardinals have been lately, they don't exactly blow me away. Looking at some of the basic stats, they're 21st in turnover differential, 30th against the pass (YPG), and 26th in rushing YPG. What do you think has been the key to their return to the top of the NFC West? Well, aside from the fact that it's the NFC West.
RotB: The Cardinals success rests on the shoulders of Kurt Warner. When he's spot-on accurate, the Cardinals are a whole different team and produce 8 wins. In the losses, Warner commits more turnovers and Ill-advised throws. I would say the Cardinals record is also a tribute to their road success. They're record would have been better had they actually started off the season playing well at home. Their turnover differential can be blamed widely on a 6 TO performance by Kurt Warner against the Panthers. Their pass defense has had it's problems, but I actually talked about this recently. The Cardinals just started running the ball more with success which is why they are ranked so low.
We continue with a few more questions after the jump...
NN: Can you explain the disparity in the Cardinals road (5-1) and home (3-3) record? Given their win last week over Minnesota, do you think it's starting to even back out?
RotB: The Cardinals got the monkey off their back in their comeback win over the Seahawks 3 weeks ago, and I believe after that win they finally gained back their home-mojo. The difference at home is how flat they started games at home, turning the ball over more, and really not having a sense of urgency. On the road, this team is disciplined and goes for the kill. I don't get it but it's certainly nice to see the Cardinals playing competitive on the opponents home field.
NN: Kurt Warner seems to be especially banged up this season. Any concerns or thoughts on it with the team potentially heading to the postseason?
RotB: There's a cause for some concern, but the hip injury he started the season with is virtually gone and you can tell in his last 4 games. I believe sitting out against the Titans helped with the concussion symptoms and he should be at full strength heading into the playoffs.
NN: Is there a particular young Cardinal that 49ers fans should keep an eye on this Monday?
RotB: LaRod Stephens-Howling has been playing out of his mind lately. He's our newest special teams ace and has been returning kickoffs this year. He won the NFC Special Teams player of the week award against the Titans two weeks ago. Basically, he's a fast little guy that can return kicks, down punts inside the 5 yard line, and make very good special teams tackles.
NN: One of the 49ers biggest problems has been their offensive line. What can we expect from the Cardinals front 7 in terms of pass rush and against the run? Any particular schemes they'll utilize?
RotB: I believe they'll use the same strategy that worked in stopping Frank Gore week 1. I realize he's been less productive lately but he's burned the Cardinals in the past. The Cardinals pass defense has been a work in progress lately but if they can get things right, you'll see some confusing looks on Monday and a lot of different blitzes from our safeties, mainly Adrian Wilson.