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32 Teams in 32 Days: Arizona Cardinals

 

Getting Back to 2015

When evaluating the Cardinals, it is easy to forget this team went 13-3 in 2015, winning a playoff game and displaying one of the most dynamic offenses we’ve seen in recent years. Last season, they could not duplicate the offense and were inconsistent on defense, resulting in a 7-8-1 record. There is still Pro-Bowl talent almost everywhere on the field in Arizona and beret-wearing head coach Bruce Arians has had success in the league so a turnaround is very possible. Hopefully Arians will be able to coach the full season after having surgery for kidney cancer in the offseason.

The biggest key to the Cardinals’ season will be the health and production of QB Carson Palmer. The quarterback whisperer Arians will have to bring out the 2015 Palmer to make a serious run into the postseason. The offensive line also must limit the hits on Palmer and give him more time to throw. This will allow Palmer to utilize the vertical passing game that he was so successful with in 2015. Losing Calais Campbell to free agency doesn’t help, but the defense should still be top 10 in the league. They will need to find that aggressiveness and play with a chip on their shoulder like their 2015 defense did. This is a playoff team on paper but they’ll need to put it all together again to return to the postseason.

 

The Offense

QB- As I explained previously, Carson Palmer when healthy and given time in the pocket can pick defenses apart. The offensive line needs to play well in pass protection to keep him on the field. If Drew Stanton or Blaine Gabbert has to come in, they don’t have any chance of a playoff push. When healthy, I think Palmer at 37 years old is still a top 12 -15 quarterback.

RB- David Johnson has solidified himself as not only the Cardinals’ featured running back, but a top three back in the NFL. He can hurt you on the ground and after the catch with power and speed. The team also re-signed Chris Johnson as the backup when DJ needs a rest.

Receivers- Larry Fitzgerald is beating father time, producing 1000 yard seasons year in year out. He will be 34 by the start of the season and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Behind Fitz are a slew of downfield receivers in John Brown, J.J. Nelson, and Jaron Brown. Tight Ends Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas are both decent receiving options in the short passing game and redzone.

 

The Defense  

Defensive Line- Arizona’s biggest subtraction this offseason was Defensive End Calais Campbell who signed with Jacksonville. Robert Nkemdiche will look to prove he can be an every down player in place of Campbell in the 3-4 defensive scheme. Opposite from him will be Frostee Rucker who didn’t record a sack last season. He will need to be disruptive along with Nkemdiche and Nose Tackle Corey Peters.

Linebackers- The Cardinals have a pair of elite pass-rushers in Chandler Jones and Markus Golden who both eclipsed 11.0 sacks last season. This tandem disrupted the quarterback arguably more than any other tandem in the NFL a year ago. First-round rookie Haason Reddick looks to step in at an inside linebacker spot next season and veteran Deone Bucannon rounds out the group.

Secondary- Patrick Peterson is considered a top 3-5 corner in the league and can easily shut down most teams’ best wideout. On the other side is Justin Bethel who will be tested constantly when teams target him over Peterson. At safety, Antoine Bethea should be the starter at strong safety and 2nd round pick Budda Baker, who I am extremely high on will likely be a backup. Perhaps the best news the Cardinals will get is the return of Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu. He should be back to 2015 form this season and ready to create turnovers.

 

 

Team Schedule and Season Outlook

Best Case Scenario: 13-3 

Carson Palmer locks in like he did two seasons ago and picks apart defenses along with the defense forcing turnovers at a high rate. If one unit doesn’t have it, the other will pick it up and grind out a win. Arizona eases through the division and doesn’t look back.

Worst Case Scenario: 6-10

Even though this is one of the most complete teams in football, the spectrum is still very wide. Palmer could play ineffectively any year with his age and the defense could miss Calais Campbell’s production and leadership. If this happens, there could potentially be problems for the Cardinals.  

My Predictions

Week 1: @ Detroit 

Result: (1-0)

Week 2: @ Indianapolis 

Result: (2-0)

Week 3: vs Dallas 

Result: (2-1)

Week 4: vs San Fransisco 

Result: (3-1)

Week 5: @ Philadelphia 

Result: (3-2)

Week 6: vs Tampa Bay 

Result:(3-3)

Week 7: @ Los Angeles Rams 

Result: (3-4)

Week 8: BYE 

Week 9: @ San Fransisco 

Result: (4-4)

Week 10: vs Seattle 

Result: (5-4)

Week 11: @ Houston 

Result: (6-4)

Week 12: vs Jacksonville 

Result: (7-4)

Week 13: vs Los Angeles Rams 

Result: (8-4)

Week 14: vs Tennessee  

Result: (8-5)

Week 15: @ Washington 

Result: (9-5)

Week 16: vs New York Giants 

Result: (9-6)

Week 17: @ Seattle 

Result: (9-7)

The NFC West doesn’t look as talented as it did a few years ago. Although, all four teams are physical and battle in the trenches. Division games are sometimes toss ups which is why I have the Cardinals losing a couple. I have them also losing to what I think are also complete teams that can match up well with them. A five game win-streak after the bye get the Cardinals back into contention. Although, they lose three of the last four including Week 17 for the division crown to finish 9-7. I believe they narrowly miss the playoffs with the Cowboys and Bucs as Wild Cards. 

 

 

 

 

   

   

 

  

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Scott Riley View All

Hello sports fans and welcome to Sports Fan Entertainment! My name is Scott Riley and I am currently attending Iona College in New York. While I'm from the northeast, most of my teams reside in Florida (Bucs, Magic, Mets, Florida Gators). You can expect weekly NFL analysis and predictions from me as well as some NBA content! Hope you all enjoy SFE as we have big things ahead!

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