Carson Palmer has been officially ruled out for Thursday night’s matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers, according to USA Today. Palmer suffered a concussion Sunday as the Cardinals took on a divisional rival, the Los Angeles Rams, and with Thursday night being another division game, Arizona is facing an uphill battle to dig themselves out of a 1-3 start.
In the 2015 season, the Arizona Cardinals resembled something out of the Kurt Warner era with a strong offense and defense taking them all the way to the NFC Championship game. Offseason changes to the Cardinals roster were meant to solidify the team’s chances for another Super Bowl run, but so far, the Arizona team keeps falling short despite the significant amount of talent.
Carson Palmer has struggled this season, looking more like the quarterback who blew last year’s NFC Championship against the Panthers than the MVP runner-up who had become a fantasy football dream in the regular season. So far this year, Palmer has thrown for 1150 yards and six touchdowns, but Carson has also thrown five costly interceptions that left the Cardinals just a couple points shy of victory.
While Arizona fans keep hoping the Cardinals quarterback will redeem himself each week, they’re now biting their nails as backup Drew Stanton is set to make the start for Arizona on Thursday night. Stanton, who stepped in for Palmer in the final quarter of Sunday’s game, threw for forty-eight yards and two interceptions. While Stanton kept the Cardinals alive after Palmer was injured in 2014, fans are undoubtedly nervous that he’s better at sideline dancing than scoring points, even if the Cardinals are facing a mediocre San Francisco team.
So is there any hope for the Cardinals to get back on track this week without Palmer? It depends. First of all, second-year running back David Johnson will most likely be carrying not only the ball but the team. Johnson has been a crucial piece of the Arizona Cardinals offensive puzzle, muscling his way down the field for yardage and points. The running back will be without his steady backup, Chris Johnson, who was placed on IR this week. Johnson’s injury means the Cardinals will rely on third-stringer Andre Ellington to pick up the slack. While Ellington has the speed to shrug off the opposing defense, he’s injury prone and lacks the strength David Johnson brings to the field for the Cards.
The other issue will be if Stanton can complete passes to his well-rounded group of receivers. Leading the pack is future hall of famer and lifetime Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald, who seems to be able to pull plays out of thin air. Fitz may be Stanton’s best bet to move the chains and get in the end zone but don’t overlook the size of Michael Floyd or the speed of John and Jaron Brown, providing Stanton is able to get them the ball.
On the defense, the Cardinals have been struggling downfield. Arizona’s dynamic safety Tyrann Mathieu says he will be looking to play full force this game. Mathieu had been holding back in the previous games due to his ACL recovery but acknowledged after last week’s loss, it’s time to play to his full potential.
“We’re 1-3, man. It’s not really time for me to sit back and play it slow,” Mathieu told reporters, according to NFL.com, acknowledging he will be playing the slot for Thursday’s matchup of the Cardinals versus the 49ers.
While the Cardinals saw some positive signs from the newly acquired Marcus Cooper at the cornerback position, Arizona is also looking to Patrick Peterson to step up his game. The front line will have their hands full dealing with Carlos Hyde in the running game but count on Arizona to use Chandler Jones to put pressure on the young quarterback, Blaine Gabbert. Jones has already come out for the Cardinals with four sacks and a forced fumble, but Arizona head coach Bruce Arians is looking for more from the former New England Patriot.
With or without Carson Palmer, it’s clear the Arizona Cardinals need to come out to win tonight if they have any hope of building momentum from this moment forward. Arizona is very familiar with having a winning season and having to sit out the postseason play, and Seattle and Los Angeles already hold a two-game lead over the Cardinals. It’s still early in the season, but there is undoubtedly a sense of urgency for the Cardinals to start making plays.
Maybe the Cardinals are missing the now retired Cory Redding’s victory cookies, and they feel they have nothing to play for. But as Bruce Arians said, “No risk it, no biscuit.” And the Cardinals need to risk it with or without Carson Palmer.
[Featured Image by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.]