The Arizona Cardinals were one of the NFL‘s feel good stories at the beginning of last season, charging out of the gate to a 4-0 start, including an upset win at the New England Patriots. Unfortunately, the Cardinals we all expected revealed themselves in October, and the team went on a nine game losing streak, concluding with a 58-0 demolition at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals continued to falter down the stretch, stumbling to a 5-11 record overall.
The Cardinals’ offense was absolutely atrocious, and they ranked last in the NFL in yardage and second to last in points. The quarterback situation was unsettled all year, so the team hired Bruce Arians to be its head coach and traded for quarterback Carson Palmer. The team hopes that these additions will revive the passing attack before Arizona wastes the entirety of Larry Fitzgerald‘s career. The team signed RB Rashard Mendenhall and drafted OG Jonathan Cooper to help with the equally poor running game. Unfortunately, Cooper broke his leg last week, and will miss at least 10-12 weeks.
Defensively, the Cardinals are in much better shape. Patrick Peterson is already one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL, and the Deion Sanders comparisons are not at all a stretch. With a solid front seven to boot, the Cardinals finished 12th in total defense. However, the defense will have to continue to improve in order to make up for the team’s morbid offense.
The Cardinals should be a much improved team this year, but, unfortunately, their record will probably not reflect that. They play in the NFC West, which means they have two games each against the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, and they will probably lose all four. The St. Louis Rams are better than Arizona as well, and the Cardinals could go winless in the division, which is always a recipe for a losing record.
Most of the Cardinals’ toughest games are at home, which is a positive. However, it also means that the weaker teams they play will be on the road, which could take away the slight advantage Arizona has over teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. For the home games, it is hard to see them beating the likes of the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, no matter where the games are played.
With the offense still highly questionable and a difficult schedule, I am predicting the Cardinals will finish with a 6-10 record. As I said earlier, this team is much more talented than a six win club, but the difficulty of the schedule will hold them back. If Palmer turns back the clock, they find something that resembles a respectable run game, and the defense takes a big step forward, they could be a .5o0 team. However, I would not bet on all that happening.
The Cardinals are trying to rebuild, but they simply do not have enough pieces to compete in the loaded NFC. They are in for another losing season, and hopefully they can use the resulting high draft pick to find a player who can help move this offense forward.