The Cardinals are halfway through their customary six-game schedule against NFC West opponents Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis.
For some members of the organization, it feels like this year’s divisional trek has a few extra additions.
The Cards enter a three-game stretch against AFC South opponents on Sunday, beginning with the Texans and followed by the Jaguars and Colts. The Cardinals will play the fourth team in the division, the Titans, on Dec. 15.
Coach Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator and then interim head coach of Indianapolis last season. He faced the other three teams twice during the regular season, giving him more familiarity with these opponents than a typical NFC coach.
“Obviously, when you know somebody and the coaches haven’t changed for them, it helps in your preparation,” Arians said. “You have
Harold Goodwin focused on slowing that dynamic Houston pass rush last season as the Colts’ offensive line coach.
In the first matchup in mid-December, a 29-17 Texans win, Watt had 10 tackles, three sacks and six tackles for loss. Two weeks later, Watt was held to four tackles for loss and no sacks in a 28-16 Indianapolis victory. Smith had one sack in each game.
Now the Cardinals’ first-year offensive coordinator readies for another showdown.
“I think having played J.J. twice last year alone, and Mr. Smith, No. 94 I call him, it gives me a little bit of an advantage,” Goodwin said.
Powers was with Indianapolis from 2009-2012 before coming to Arizona. He cautions about overreliance on past matchups, but said knowing the tendencies of players like Houston receiver Andre Johnson is an advantage.
“After playing those guys two times a year for four years, I’ve definitely been helping guys with what type of players we’re about to face,” Powers said. “With Pat (Peterson) asking me how Andre runs his routes or how their offensive line scheme is run, that’s the type of input I can give guys.”
Stanton said having a firm grasp on an opponent is helpful, but a player can never get too comfortable because game plans are always changing.
“Sometimes seeing an opponent twice a year, they’re going to show you one thing and then change it up the following time you see them,” Stanton said.
The familiarity is also a two-way street.
The AFC South saw Arians’ tendencies last year just like he saw theirs. Both sides have more information, and in the end, it’s a never-ending chess match.
“I think it definitely doesn’t hurt that we’ve kind of played against his offense before, but on the same note, he’s played against us before,” Watt said. “He’s a very good coach, he’s a smart coach, he’s going to make adjustments and we’re going to make adjustments, and that’s part of football. That’s what makes it exciting and that’s what makes it fun.”