We are nearly entering the "elite" set of teams in the NFL, with the Arizona Cardinals just barely on the outside of that group of eleven teams. The Cardinals have an average ranking from the group of 13.5, a full two points ahead of the 13th ranked Chicago Bears, but a full 2.5 points behind tomorrows 11th ranked team. What does this mean? It just means the Cardinals are good enough to sneak into the playoffs, but it means they will need to find a way to split the series with the two juggernauts ahead of them in the NFC West.
12. Arizona Cardinals (2013 Record: 10-6)
The Arizona Cardinals played stout defense in 2013, but they could not generate enough offensive production to compete with the two NFC West powerhouses in the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers. Last year, I gave the Cardinals no respect mostly because I felt they would end up being where the St. Louis Rams ended up – the short end of the strong division stick. Instead, the Cardinals played dominant defensive football all season long. With a 10-6 record and no playoff berth, the Cardinal players have got to be hungry after coming so close.
Key Losses: Javier Arenas, Karlos Dansby, Andre Roberts, Antoine Cason, Rashard Mendenhall (retired), Jim Dray, Mike Gibson
Key Acquisitions: Jared Veldheer, Antonio Cromartie, Ted Ginn Jr., John Carlson, Ted Larsen, Jonathan Dwyer
A key aspect of their lack of offensive production in 2013 was no real threat from the tight end position. The addition of Notre Dame standout, Troy Niklas, should provide Carson Palmer with a reliable release valve when those stout defensive lines of the NFC West pressure him. Other than that, however, the Cardinals focal point in the 2014 NFL Draft was on the defensive side of the ball.
Looking ahead, reproducing their 10-6 season will require plenty of upsets. The Cardinals 2014 regular season schedule includes road matchups against the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders. Aside from the Raiders, none of those other games will be easy wins for the Cardinals. I fully expect the Giants and Falcons to recover from their down years in 2013. It gets a little easier at home, but they still have their two main division powerhouses, along with the Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs – two of those teams being the playoffs last season.
Projected Record: 9-7
Kyle: For the second straight year, the Cardinals finished the year strong. If they can just start their season with that type of momentum they can challenge the 49ers and Seahawks.
Jon: In my book, Larry Fitzgerald is still a Top 3 receiver. Unfortunately for Fitz, Carson Palmer is far removed from his Pro Bowl days. Fitz has performed with far worse QBs in the past, though, and that's what makes him so great. He'll be the highlight of Arizona's offense once again.
Topher: I really don’t like where the Cards are, they have almost zero offense, no run game and an offensive line that is very inconsistent, what they do have going for them is one of the better defenses in the league which won them most of their games last year. The down side for them is the three other teams in their division got better while they stayed at the same level of talent. They should still be a decent team but I see them dropping to #4 in their division.
Jacob: The Cardinals have a solid defense, but lack any sort of real offensive talent. Larry Fitzgerald is one of the most talented receivers in the league, and he has another receiver, Michael Floyd opposite him that can contribute; however, as has been the case since Fitzgerald began his career in Arizona, there remains a hole at quarterback and running back. Carson Palmer experienced some of the most pressure of any QB in 2013 and was unable to make anything happen on those occasions, throwing 15 interceptions (five more than any other QB) when under pressure. Andre Ellington had somewhat of a breakout season in 2013, but will have a harder time in 2014, now that teams have had a look at him. The Cards will be in the mix in the NFC West, but will likely wind up on the bottom of the stacked division. 8-10 wins.
Laurie: The only easy thing about guessing how the Cardinals’ season plays out is that they go against the 49ers and Seahawks twice, which means another year of getting close but not close enough. Even with an enhanced offensive line, I doubt it’s enough.