TEMPE, Ariz. – In 1996, a 0-8 New York Jets team came to Arizona and beat the Cardinals by a score of 31-21. It was their only win of the season.
In 2004, the 0-4 San Francisco 49ers beat the Cardinals 31-28 in overtime. A couple months later, this time in Arizona, they won again by the same score, also in overtime. Those were their only two wins of the season.
Sunday, when the Cardinals visit Jacksonville, they will not run the risk of being the Jaguars’ first win of the season, as the Tennessee Titans earned those honors in a 29-27 defeat Sunday. Still, at 5-4 the Cardinals enter this game as a heavy favorite over their 1-8 opponent, with Las Vegas having the Cardinals as a 7.5 point favorite.
A touchdown favorite for an East Coast road game? That’s unfamiliar territory for a Cardinals team that has traditionally struggled in such settings. Given that Arizona is looking to make a playoff push whereas all the Jaguars have to look forward to is the offseason, it would be easy to think there’s a chance the Cardinals will overlook their opponent.
Not happening, according to their coach.
“I don’t think for us right now we should be overconfident against anyone,” Bruce Arians said Wednesday. “I know this, that Maurice Jones-Drew has embarrassed a lot of teams over the years and a lot of players. You don’t want to get on that highlight film when he trucks you and runs you over, so you better bring your big boy pants when you play against Jacksonville and you better always have done it.”
A cursory look at the Jaguars roster would reveal a few familiar names, including the aforementioned Jones-Drew, who is a running back, as well as tight end Marcedes Lewis, who is familiar to Pac-12 fans from his time at UCLA. Other than those two, though, there isn’t much in the way of name recognition for anyone who will be suiting up Sunday.
“I think the main thing for us is to stop the run, get all 11 guys to Maurice Jones-Drew; we know what type of running back he’s been and he still is,” linebacker Daryl Washington said. “Get guys to the ball, stop the run, make them one-dimensional and the game is ours.”
The Jaguars feature the worst offense in the NFL in terms of points and yards per game, and their defense ranks last in the NFL in points allowed per game and in the bottom five of the NFL in yards allowed per contest.
But Cardinals QB Carson Palmer is wary of the team’s ability to rush the passer.
“They have four good defensive linemen that can rush the passer and can play the run well,” he said. “It’s a defensive group that plays like they have a lead.
“They don’t quit, they don’t slow down, they don’t stop, they’re young, they’re hungry, they’re well-coached and they’ve been on the field for a long time.”
Palmer noted how the team’s struggles on offense has led to the defense looking worse than it really is, which is a concept anyone who has watched the Cardinals the last couple of seasons can relate to.
On paper, the Jaguars look like a bad team. On the field, the Jaguars have played like a bad team. But they are an NFL team, which means they are capable of winning any given game. The Titans found that out last Sunday, and the Cardinals franchise is unfortunately familiar with the concept.
“This is the week that’s most important, rather than stopping the run, don’t go in there with the mindset that we’ve got this game under wraps,” Washington said. “Make sure that we go down there and take care of our business and make sure that this game is the most important game, probably of the season.”