NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans face the Cardinals on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.The Titans are coming off a 24-13 win over the Texans, a win that improved the team’s record to 8-4.
The Cardinals are 5-7, and coming off a 32-16 loss to the Rams.
This week, I caught up with Kent Somers, who covers the Cardinals for azcentral sports. Kent is in his 20th season covering the Cardinals. You can follow him on Twitter @kentsomers, and join roughly 34,000 others.
Here’s how our conversation went…
Wyatt: Hey Kent. It’s been a while since these two teams have faced one another. This year’s Cardinals are 5-7 with four games left in the season. What’s the mindset down the stretch?
Somers: Well, they are trying to put a brave face on it and say, ‘Well, we’re not mathematically eliminated. Anything can happen.’ But anybody who has been around knows they are probably headed to their second consecutive losing season. They are still playing hard. It’s too much of a veteran group not to – they have good leaders on the team. They are just so inconsistent in almost every area now. They really struggled to score, and with everything going wrong it is going to be about impossible for them to pull out of it.
Wyatt: What kind of expectations did you have for this team? And what went wrong for Cardinals to get to this point?
Somers: I think most people, me included, thought they’d bounce back this year and have a playoff-type season. They had quarterback Carson Palmer coming back, running back David Johnson, and he had such a great season last year. The big question for me was on defense, where they let five starters go through free agency. Could they replace them? What’s happened is a lot of guys haven’t performed up to expectations, and of course the injuries, with Palmer and David Johnson getting injured in the first game. He’s one of six starters on Injured Reserve right now. They are on their third quarterback. And even when they were healthy they weren’t playing that well. So it’s a team that all of a sudden looks very old.
Wyatt: I was on a conference call with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians this week, and he called quarterback Blaine Gabbert “a great surprise.” How has he been overall?
Somers: He has been OK – better in his first two starts against Houston and Jacksonville than he was last week against the Rams. He brought them back in the fourth quarter against Jacksonville, drove down for go-ahead touchdowns. But last Sunday the very first play of the game he rolls out and throws off-balance and lofts this pass that is easily intercepted. That’s the big thing is he has turnovers. I think he has five turnovers now in his three starts – four interceptions and a fumble. He has six touchdown passes, so he has made some plays. And they are intrigued by him. Arians wants to see him be more judicious on how and when he runs, and when he is on the move maybe stop and set his feet rather than try all these off-balance throws when he tries to do too much.
Wyatt: The last time the Titans faced running back Adrian Peterson he was with the Vikings. Now he’s a Cardinal, and he’s performed pretty well there, with 448 yards and a pair of touchdows. How has he been, and how is he health-wise after missing last Sunday’s game with a neck injury? I noticed he missed practice on Wednesday.
Somers: Well, he has had two great games. First one, right out of the block against Tampa Bay he had 100 yards. And he’s had those two 100-yard gains and then no room in others. And the neck injury that caused him to miss last week, we didn’t even know about until they came to practice last Wednesday. He is questionable for this week, I would think. Coach Arians said he’s still consulting with doctors, and he doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play or not. When he is rolling he is still strong and physical. He hasn’t hit the home run ball yet, but if he gets a little room he can definitely get six, eight, 10 yards. The problem is in some of the games the other team hasn’t had trouble at all shutting him down.
Wyatt: The Titans have faced T.Y. Hilton and DeAndre Hopkins in back-to-back weeks, and now Larry Fitzgerald is next up. He’s having a great year, with 82 catches for 878 yards and five scores. Is he showing any signs of slowing down?
Somers: He’s playing really well. He’s again their most consistent player on offense, and he’s headed toward another 100-catch, 1,000-yard season. He’ll probably be the oldest player in NFL history to do it. He has been great. They are still using him out of the slot a ton. He doesn’t go deep a ton, but Gabbert does rely on him heavily in clutch situations. He is still a really good blocker – they use him a lot like that in the run game. So he is still a really good player at age 34.
Wyatt: So, how does this season end for the Cardinals?
Somers: I’ll think they’ll be lucky to split the last four. After the Titans they have the Redskins and Giants, and then at Seattle, and they seem to always play well at Seattle. So I could see the finishing with seven wins.