NFL Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals Not as Far From Contending as Some Think

For most NFL teams, in prior seasons, when you saw the words Arizona Cardinals on your schedule it brought a sly little grin knowing that a probable win was on its way. Former head coach Ken Whisenhunt almost had that mentality turned around, but in 2012 it reared its ugly head once more.

Now with a new head coach, new quarterback and (once again Cardinals fans) a new attitude, Arizona must try to change the perception of schedule cupcake once again. But in all honesty, they may not be as far off from being an actual playoff contender as some might think.

Last year was actually a tale of two seasons for the Cardinals. After getting off to a ridiculously good 4-0 start, Arizona then dropped nine in a row, and managed only one more win for the rest of the season. The quarterback play was horrendous, and the porous offensive line made that fact even more noticeable. Even perennial All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had a bad year.

The Cardinals couldn’t run the ball, throw the ball, or catch the ball–but what they could do was play defense. So, there is something to build on.

If you look at Arizona’s schedule from 2012, it really did end up being a murderer’s row, and the Cardinals were definitely left on the slab.

The Cardinals had to play the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers twice each, the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, and Green Bay Packers–and then throw in the New England Patriots (who the Cardinals beat, by the way) just for good measure.

All total, the Cardinals played seven teams (in nine games) that ended the season with winning records, and of those seven, six of them were playoff teams. That’s tough slugging even for a team with an offense that can score points. The deck was stacked against the Cardinals, and the wild cards they had playing at quarterback didn’t help matters at all.

New head coach Bruce Arians will make huge improvements to the offense, even given some of the less than stellar talent currently on the roster. New starting QB (for now) Carson Palmer will also be a benefit, although even Palmer could struggle mightily if he doesn’t get any better protection than last year’s Arizona QBs.

Of the Cardinals’ 11 losses, four of them were by seven points or less. If Arizona’s defense can perform like they did in 2012, and the offensive production can be boosted by even 25 or 30 percent, then it will mean at least four to five more wins for the Cardinals in 2013–and in 2012 ten wins got four teams into the playoffs.

Despite a laughable record in 2012, any team that sees the Cardinals on their schedule this year should be concerned, because this will be a much different team with bigger goals than just winning a couple of more games than the prior season.

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Michael Collins is a Rant Sports Senior Writer, and Atlanta sports columnist. Follow him @GaSportsCraze on Twitter and here on Facebook