Who I Like Tonight, and I Mean Tony Kornheiser
Arizona 31, San Francisco 13.
Two superb decisions will be on display tonight for the fans of the Arizona Cardinals, who are suddenly contending not only for a division title, but for a first-round bye.
One: Whisenhunt's choice of Warner over Leinart at quarterback; clearly Warner has regained the touch that made him a two-time Most Valuable Player.
Two: the choice of fifth-round running back Tim Hightower
to replace grousing multi-millionaire Edgerrin James
as the starting running back. Whisenhunt couldn't ignore the mounting evidence that James was hitting a wall. In his previous four games, James averaged just 2.9 yards a rush and hadn't broken a run longer than 15 yards in 46 carries. Here came Hightower, who, in his first career start, rushed 22 times for 109 yards to help beat St. Louis.
I like Arizona to grind it out tonight against the 49ers. And that Cardinal pass-rush can come from anywhere; they've got five guys with at least three sacks. They're not the Steeler front, but they've been putting consistent pressure on the passer -- just ask Romo who Travis LaBoy
is -- and they're on pace for a 42-sack season.
You're chortling about my suggestion that the Cards could get a bye and then a home playoff game? Say they win tonight to go to 6-3. They've got Seattle twice down the stretch -- no gimmes, because Matt Hasselbeck
may be back for the Weeks 11 and 17 games, but clearly games the Cardinals should win. Four of the last seven are home. (Though two of the roadies are at Philly and Foxboro.)
The biggest problem: Even if the Cards finish 11-5, Carolina is probably going to be the biggest competitor for the second seed ... and the Panthers would win the head-to-head tiebreaker because of their 27-23 win over Arizona in Week 8.
I still don't know how good Arizona is, but I do know they're building up a nice little home-field advantage --the Cards are 3-0 at home, by an average of 17 points a win -- and won't be an easy out in January, bye or not.