Throughout this season, the Cardinals have been notorious for their strong passing game, not at all their weak game on the ground. Their coaching staff adjusted accordingly, barely trusting their running backs to contribute much.

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layoffs, it has been very different. Edgerrin James has been given an ample amount of carries, a large difference from the regular season. Coordinator Todd Haley has even called more running plays than passing ones (100 running, 95 passing), a prospect most would have laughed at had they been told before Arizona’s first playoff game against the Falcons.

James has not exactly set the world on fire; 3.9 yards a carry isn’t top-notch, obviously. However, the Cardinals have been able to mix things up with it, creating more opportunities for the passing game as shown by how many times Larry Fitzgerald has been paired one-on-one, something no teams does by choice. World-class defenses, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, can contain a passing game when they barely pay attention to anything else. If Haley sticks to his gameplan versus the Steelers — and he should, initially — maybe the defense will focus more on it. And, if not, perhaps a few big gains can be gotten on running plays, forcing the Steelers to take a man out of the secondary, giving Kurt Warner and co. a greater chance in the passing game.

It certainly seems unlikely, though, as the Steelers are ranked number two in running yards allowed a game. Their front seven is just about the best in football, and rarely allows a running back by them. Don’t expect to see many big runs, as the Steelers are the best at limiting runs greater than ten yards, and the Cardinals aren’t particularly good at getting them.

Plus, in the short-yardage downs, Haley may be inclined to attempt more than the conventional dive up the middle. Once again, Pittsburgh is the best at stopping them, and Arizona is one of the worst at gaining them.

Also, the Steelers occasionally have a problem defending backs running near to the left tackle statistically, but the Cardinals will probably not be taking advantage of the hole, as they haven’t ran well near it.

So basically, it looks like Arizona will be hard-pressed to find any sort of ground game. However, this does not mean Haley should get away from it. I’ll get into how both teams will win the game later in the week, but sticking with James, even if and when he fails, is vital to their chances. Pittsburgh’s defense is too good to be beat by a one-dimensional offense, so even if the Cards get stuffed on the majority of their runs, they just have to suck it up and keep at it, hoping to wear the defense down, attract other defenders to stopping it, or finding a hole one time and busting out a long gain.

Up next is the Steelers’ passing game.

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