1. Talented Twosome
Why does QB Kurt Warner rank third in passing yards and own the fifth-best passer rating? He's throwing to the most prolific receiving tandem in the NFL, that's why. Anquan Boldin is tied for third in catches (27), is fifth in yards (366) and first in touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald is tied for eighth in catches (24), ranks third in yards (415) and is tied for second with six catches over 20 yards. Boldin (6-foot-1, 217 pounds) and Fitzgerald (6-3, 220) are big, physical, athletic and a matchup nightmare for defensive backs. Boldin is questionable after taking a blow to the head last week. His possible absence would be a huge break for the Bills, who could then focus their coverage on Fitzgerald. Even without Boldin, the Cardinals' passing game is still capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Look for them to try to isolate Fitzgerald on the Bills' cornerbacks, particularly rookie Leodis McKelvin.
2. Warner giveth, the Bills taketh away.
Warner committed six of the Cardinals' seven turnovers last week against the Jets. The Bills no doubt took note of the fact that Warner has a tendency to expose the ball by holding it low, making it easier for defenders to strip him. DEs Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay are good at coming off the edge and using their hands to beat blockers. Getting a pass rush, whether it's from the front four or with the blitz, will give the Bills a chance to get sacks and pressure Warner into making more mistakes.
3. Tale of two tailbacks
Buffalo's Marshawn Lynch (275 yards) and Arizona's Edgerrin James (277 yards) have posted similar numbers, but one could argue that Lynch is having a better season. In addition to scoring four touchdowns, Lynch has been more effective moving the chains and gives the Bills' offense more balance. James, the NFL's leading active career rusher, isn't the dominant back he was in Indianapolis, but he is still dangerous as a runner and receiver. Lynch is complemented by versatile Fred Jackson, while James gets good support from rookie Tim Hightower, an all-purpose threat and a reliable short-yardage back (three TDs). While the Bills and Cardinals have explosive passing games, stopping the run must be a priority for both defenses.
4. Tough guy
If anyone questioned QB Trent Edwards' ability to take a hit, he should have provided the answer by now. His willingness to take some punishment while trying to make plays has earned him much respect in the locker room, but the Bills don't want to see him take such a pounding. It's up to their offensive line, which has been inconsistent in pass protection, to keep defenders off Edwards in both halves instead of one. Losing DE/OLB Bertrand Berry (torn groin) has hurt the Cardinals' pass rush. DT Darnell Dockett, DE Travis LaBoy and LBs Karlos Dansby, Chike Okeafor and Clark Haggans know how to bring the heat, and they'll have to protect a secondary that will be more vulnerable if Pro Bowl SS Adrian Wilson (hamstring) is out.
5. Out of the gate.
The Bills have made a habit of starting slowly and finishing fast. It's not the best way to live, but they have been getting away with it. Poor starts are going to catch up to the Bills eventually, so they need to come out of the blocks quickly because, unlike their last three opponents, the Cardinals have an offense that is capable of matching the Bills point for point. The Cardinals also are 7-2 under head coach Ken Whisenhunt at raucous University of Phoenix Stadium, which can be a factor in a tight game.
Prediction: The Bills have been playing with fire the last three weeks. This time they get burned. Cardinals, 27-23.