Home cooking for the Arizona Cardinals used to be literally baking in triple-digit heat rising from the metal bleachers of a mostly empty Sun Devil Stadium.
Coach Phillips talked some this week about “how he played there a lot of times, and remembers way back when he was with the Denver Broncos, shoot, the whole crowd was a Denver crowd, and there wasn’t a big crowd.” Oh my… how things have finally changed.
Entering their third season in a raucous – and air conditioned – home of their own, the Cardinals finally have a true home-field advantage and the record to prove it.
Arizona is 8-2 at University of Phoenix Stadium since Ken Whisenhunt took over as coach in 2007 and is riding a five-game winning streak there. In their two home victories this season – over Miami and Buffalo – the Cardinals have outscored their opponents 72-27, including a 41-17 win over the previously unbeaten Bills last Sunday.
Whisenhunt said “he knows that they have an appreciation of home-field advantage as a football team. I think our fans are starting to get a sense of that as well,” Whisenhunt said. ”I compliment them on how they’ve been for us. At times it’s as loud as many of the louder stadiums that I’ve been in.”
If Arizona can win a few away from home, the team could be in great shape down the stretch. The Cardinals are now 3-2, alone atop the NFC West, three of its last four and four of its last six games are at home.
The Cardinals have sold out all 18 regular season games since moving in to the 64,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof in the west Phoenix suburb of Glendale. In previous years in 72,000-seat Sun Devil Stadium, on the campus of Arizona State University, sellouts were extremely rare, usually occurring when the Cowboys came to town.
The three largest crowds for the Cardinals, and six of their biggest nine, came in their old stadium came against Dallas.
So, with that said it brings us to this weekend. The Cowboys return to the desert, just as they did a year ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers visited, many Arizona fans are expected to sell their tickets.
”Kurt Warner talked about “how he thinks it stinks, ”it’s always hard to tell somebody not to sell something when they can make money off of it, but we just want our advantage. I think we’ve fought hard for that.”
Many Cardinal’s fans are just using their heads, knowing that much if not most of the cost of a season ticket can be made up by selling away just this one game. Arizona’s players, though, want their fans to be using their heart.
Warner went onto to say this week, “I think our fans have done a tremendous job of sticking with us and now we are developing something. I just hope it gets to the point where it doesn’t matter who comes into this building.’
It’ll be like old times Sunday in Arizona when the Dallas Cowboys face the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The two teams used to meet twice a season as part of the NFC East from 1970 to 2001. As part of the 2002 NFL realignment, the Cardinals were placed in the NFC West with St. Louis, San Francisco and Seattle.
Dallas leads the series 55-28-1 and won their previous meeting 27-10 on Nov. 12, 2006.
According to Coach Phillips, safety Roy Williams and guard Kyle Kosier are both out for week six. We’ll also be playing without Terrance Newman. If it wasn’t for Boldin being out as well, that would have this writer a little worried.
I thought “Pacman” did a good job going against Houshmanzadeh and Johnson last week, so I’m interested to see if he can continue his progression lining up against Fitzgerald.
1. Ware/Ellis vs. Gandy/Brown
2. Tony Romo vs. Arizona secondary
3. Kurt Warner vs. Dallas secondary
Depending on how much pressure Dallas can get on Warner, and how well our secondary performs I can see Dallas winning this one. If we aren’t able to get a lot of pressure on Warner and he has time to throw…I could see this being a high scoring affair with the less penalized/less mistake-prone team winning it.
As far as a prediction goes, I’ll say it’ll be a 31-21 game at this point, with Dallas pulling out its fifth win of the season.