Quarterback could derail Cardinals’ season before it gets started

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the Cardinals massive issues at the quarterback position.

The Cardinals have a couple of weakness that could be discussed, including offensive tackle, cornerback and inside linebacker. But none of them will impact their chances this season like the quarterback position will.

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Should the Cardinals trade Anquan Boldin?

If beat writer Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic is right when he says that the Cardinals will try to shop receiver Anquan Boldin this offseason, then the team would be making a wise decision.

Boldin is a quality playmaker with excellent size, good speed and solid hands. But talent isn’t something the Cardinals are desperate for at the wideout position. They have plenty of youth and depth at receiver with Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, which makes Boldin expendable.

Boldin will be 30 in early October and is set to make $3 million in his final year. Mind you, that’s not a ton of money to pay a receiver of his caliber, but if he reaches free agency after the 2010 season then Arizona will get nothing for him in return. If they trade him now, they might be able to get a third round pick and another player, which was what teams were offering last offseason.

A trade makes even more sense if Kurt Warner retires this offseason. When Matt Leinart takes over under center, the Cardinals will switch from an offense that attacks opponents through the air to one that tries to beat teams on the ground. The focus will come off the quarterback and receivers and onto young running back Beanie Wells.

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Do the Cardinals even need Boldin?

Listen, how about you sit this one out, Q?

According to Adam Schefter via his Twitter page, the Cardinals don’t expect wideout Anquan Boldin (ankle/knee) to play against the Saints on Saturday.

As crazy as it sounds, Arizona might be better off.

The mere thought that the Cardinals are better without Boldin in the lineup sounds ridiculous. He’s an underrated playmaker that makes teams pay for double-teaming Larry Fitzgerald. He has the size and speed to win one-on-one matchups with a defender of any size and he’s a load to bring down in open space. Of course the Cardinals are better with him.

That said, over the last two seasons the Cards are 6-1 when Boldin didn’t play. And as the Wall Street Journal points out, they’ve averaged 33.9 points per game without him in the lineup, compared to the 24.5 PPG and 17-13 record with him. They also racked up 41 points in the one regular season game (vs. the Bears) that he missed this season and 51 points last week against the Packers, so the numbers would indicate that they’re better off without him.

But this is one of those times when numbers can be misleading. Arizona has survived without Boldin because they have an abundance of depth at the wideout position. Steve Breaston has shown the ability to be a playmaker when he starts and Early Doucet showed last week that he could be a star in the making. Fitzgerald aids both receivers by commanding double-teams, and having a quarterback in Kurt Warner that can deliver the ball in a timely manner so his wideouts can make the catch in stride and pick up yards after the catch is critical as well.

Can the Cardinals win without Boldin? Absolutely – and they’ve proven it. But are they better? That’s debatable. The numbers would suggest that they are, but teams are always better when they have their full complement of weapons, especially during the postseason.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

2009 fantasy football is coming soon—a look back at 2008 WRs

Last week we looked at the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks from 2008 with a look toward 2009. This week, it’s about those who catch passes. Wide receivers have become almost as valuable as running backs, so it’s important not to overlook that when you’re preparing for your fantasy draft. And you are preparing, right? Or will you cram on Labor Day weekend? If you’re like me, you’re reading this stuff now because these long months without football suck. So, about those receivers….and keep in mind this Top 10 is based on scoring from one of my own fantasy leagues, and stats may differ from league to league:

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals—There should be no question remaining as to who has the best hands in football. In fact, I’ll just say it — that Larry Fitzgerald is the best receiver in football, and one of the best since the days of (dare I say it) Jerry Rice, or Lynn Swann. Yeah, he’s that good, and he’s just getting started. In ’08, Fitzgerald had 96 catches for 1431 yards and 12 touchdowns….and that’s with Kurt Warner having two other legitimate targets in Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston.

2. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions—This poor bastard put up huge numbers last year for an 0-16 team—78 receptions for 1331 yards and 12 scores. It’s difficult to draft anyone on the Lions, though.

3. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans—This guy is just a beast. I mean, a freaking beast. Johnson had SIX games of over 130 receiving yards, and wound up with 115 catches for 1575 yards and 8 TDs…all usually with two guys covering him. Like I said, a beast. Now what would he do with a real QB?

4. Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals—Q wants the ball, and he may not get it in Arizona this season. But his numbers and skills have every other GM salivating. Last year, despite missing four games with injuries, Boldin caught 89 passes for 1038 yards and 11 scores. He even rushed 9 times for 67 yards.

5. Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers—Jennings has been on the verge of fantasy superstardom for a few years now, and I think the next two seasons may be peak years for him — especially with Aaron Rodgers coming into his own and Donald Driver losing a step or two. His 2008 numbers? 80 catches for 1292 yards and 8 touchdowns. This year, I’m saying 100-1500-12.

6. Randy Moss, New England Patriots—The fact that Moss still had a 1000-yard season catching passes from the yet-unproven Matt Cassel says a lot about Moss. Dude is a sick receiver. He had just four 100-yard games, but was consistent over the season with 69 receptions for 1008 yards and 11 TDs. He gets his boy Brady back in 2009, so look for 2007-ish numbers again.

7. Terrell Owens, Dallas Cowboys—He had one game over 200 yards, one more over 100, and every other game below 100. Owens managed 1052 yards on 69 catches with 10 scores, but by his standards the season was a bust. In Buffalo, I can’t imagine his numbers will be much better.

8. Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints—Marques Colston was never quite right after coming back from an injury, but Drew Brees kept throwing the ball to this guy, to the tune of 79 catches for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns—with three 100-yard games.

9. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers—He was suspended for the first two games in 2008, but still racked up 1421 yards on 78 catches with 6 scores…and a whopping eight 100-yard games. Steve Smith is just money, and he should be a Top 5 receiver in every fantasy league.

10. Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay Bucs—Bryant had his best season as a pro last year after missing the entire 2007 campaign, catching 83 passes for 1248 yards and 7 TDs…and he gets bonus points for doing it with the Tampa Bay Bucs!

Top 7 reasons why Super Bowl XLIII was an Instant Classic

Brainz.org lists the top 7 reasons why Super Bowl XLIII was an instant classic:

Santonio Holmes7. Arizona’s Three Goal Line Stands
Who would’ve thought Arizona would have three goal line stands? Granted, Pittsburgh’s short yardage running game is subpar but Arizona’s run defense was mediocre in the regular season…

6. Controversial Officiating
I already talked about Roethlisberger’s near touchdown. There were other close plays that will be debated by sports fans for years to come…

5. Two Great QB Performances from Possible Hall of Famers
Neither team could run, so they had to go with the pass. This could’ve been an ugly game if the quarterbacks threw too many incompletions but both Warner and Roethlisberger came to play…

4. The Longest Play in Super Bowl History
The Cardinals were one yard from paydirt with 18 seconds left in the first half. They had no timeouts but it was first down. They could’ve taken a couple shots in the end zone. However, they only got one play because Harrison stepped in front of a Warner pass and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. Until this play, Warner was 15 for 16 with five touchdowns in the red zone for the 2009 playoffs…

3. Fitzgerald’s Insane Second Half
Fitzgerald proved that you can’t keep a good man down. His only reception in the first half was in the two minute warning. But in the second half, he exploded with 6 receptions, 112 yards, and 2 touchdowns…

2. The Greatest Super Bowl Comeback Ever… Almost
The greatest comeback was in Super Bowl XXII. The Washington Redskins trailed the Denver Broncos 10-0 at the start of the second quarter, but scored 35 unanswered points to put the game away…

1. Big Ben Does His Best Joe Montana Imitation
…you can’t have an instant classic Super Bowl game without a late game winning drive. (Okay, there’s the Titans vs Rams game but that’s the exception.)…

The article goes into more detail explaining every reason, so make sure to check out the link above to view the entire piece.

The reasons listed above are pretty compelling. Yes, Super Bowl XLIII had several great moments (Harrison’s interception, Fitzgerald’s big play, Holmes’ TD catch). But for me, the game was sloppy on a whole, uneventful in the first half outside of Harrison’s touchdown, and often controversial at times. I thought it was one of the greatest fourth quarters of any Super Bowl played, but not one of the greatest games.

If you want to be technical, I think Brainz.org is right – it was an instant classic. But so many people are coining XLIII the best Super Bowl ever played and I don’t think it even tops two other Bowls in the same decade (Super Bowl XLII between the Giants and Patriots and Super Bowl XXXXVIII between the Panthers and Patriots).

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