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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Arizona Cardinals hope to stop free fall

The Cardinals exceeded expectations by winning their first four games this season but have lost the last two as they prepare to face the surprisingly 4-2 Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

October 16, 2012|By Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times

The Arizona Cardinals and daredevil Felix Baumgartner both know the feeling of tumbling toward Earth from a record height.

Baumgartner had a parachute. The Cardinals have a chance Sunday to stop their fall.

After winning their first four games for the first time since 1974, the Cardinals have lost two in a row heading into their Week 7 game at Minnesota. Arizona's three games after that? Home against San Francisco, then on the road against Green Bay and Atlanta.

The Cardinals are heading into their most daunting stretch of the season with uncertainty at quarterback — Kevin Kolb left Sunday's loss to Buffalo because of sore ribs and was replaced by the previously injured John Skelton — and more injuries at running back.

X-rays on Kolb's ribs and sternum Monday came back negative, but he's scheduled to have an MRI exam to investigate his injury further. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he's not sure whether Kolb or Skelton will start against the Vikings.

Of course, projecting a string of Arizona losses is a dicey proposition, considering not many people expected them to win their first four games. As it is, the Cardinals, who have the league's 10th-ranked defense, are still tied with Seattle and San Francisco atop the NFC West, and they have already beaten the Seahawks.

The seeds of Arizona's revival were sown last season, when the Cardinals followed a 1-6 start by winning seven of their last nine. Until Sunday, the franchise had gone nearly a year without losing two in a row.

The Vikings also have caught some people off guard. Minnesota is 4-2, a half-game behind division-leading Chicago in the NFC North. Before losing at Washington on Sunday, it had beaten San Francisco, Detroit and Tennessee in succession.

So the Cardinals-Vikings game is pivotal. One will win and go to 5-2. And the other? Well, the rest of the football world can utter the famous words of former Cardinals (and Vikings) coach Dennis Green:

They are who we thought they were.

Last season is old news

The Washington Redskins won only five games last season, but two were victories over the New York Giants, eventual Super Bowl champions.

The Redskins play the first-place Giants in East Rutherford, N.J., and have a chance to join 4-2 New York at the top of the division standings. Washington and Philadelphia are tied for second at 3-3.

So does Washington's 2011 sweep of the Giants hold any relevance now? Nope. Not as far as Redskins receiver Santana Moss is concerned.

"It's going to be a big game regardless because they're in our division and they're the Giants," Moss said Monday in a conference call. "They're a pretty good team and they're Super Bowl champs. We won two games against them and we didn't do nothing after that. We went home and watched them play in the Super Bowl."

Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall is expecting the Giants "to have a little chip on their shoulder" from last season's games.

"There's no sneaking up on them now," said Moss, whose team is coming off a 38-26 win over Minnesota. "They know we're for real. They're definitely going to bring their 'A' game to us."

The Giants, fresh off their stunning 26-3 victory at San Francisco, will get their first look at football's most dynamic and dangerous run-pass threat in Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

"Their defense is going to try to hit Rob," Hall said. "There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. They know as he goes, we go. So they're going to definitely try to be physical with him."

Fit to be tied

The New England Patriots are 3-3.

And so are the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

That's right, for the first time since realignment in 2002, all four teams in a division are tied for the top spot through Week 6 or later.

That sets the stage for Sunday's Jets-Patriots game in Foxborough, Mass., always an interesting rivalry game.

After his team beat Indianapolis, 35-9, Jets Coach Rex Ryan said he was "not ready to pull on Superman's cape just yet," in reference to the Patriots. But he didn't wait long.

On Monday, Ryan said: "I want them to know, and they know, that I think we're going to beat them. I don't buy into all that other stuff. Look, I recognize they're a great football team and [New England's Bill] Belichick's a great coach. I've never once said he wasn't, OK, but we're not going to back down or concede anything."

Not exactly fighting words, but the week is young.

Rookie vs. rookie

In a matchup of first-year quarterbacks, Cleveland's Brandon Weeden plays at Indianapolis, led by No. 1 pick Andrew Luck.

Although many observers tab Luck as a potential superstar and are reserving judgment on Weeden, the quarterbacks' numbers aren't dramatically different.

Luck has completed 53.4% of his passes, with seven touchdowns, seven passes intercepted and a passer rating of 72.0.

Weeden has completed 55.8%, with seven touchdowns, 10 passes intercepted and a passer rating of 68.1.

Getting defensive

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