The Arizona Cardinals powered through an uncertain schedule last season and finished with a 10-6, doubling their win total from 2012. They were in the NFL playoff picture heading into their Week 17 regular season finale with the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers edged the Cardinals on a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of regulation, and the Cardinals missed the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.
Tell me that doesn’t hurt. The 2014 regular season now ominously looms, and the Cardinals are staring down a very doable schedule.
The high-flying NFC West contenders kick the regular season off with games against three playoff teams from 2013 in the San Diego Chargers, the New York Giants and the 49ers. Then, four out of the final six games will be battled against imposing divisional rivals.
Despite the hectic schedule, the Cardinals project to get even better this year. The Cardinals’ first loss will be in the Mile High city against a ridiculous Denver Broncos team that is hungry to avenge their Super Bowl 48 loss against the Seattle Seahawks. That said, the game vs. Arizona will likely be much closer than most people believe.
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians will then coast through 2014 until the team heads to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seahawks. The Cardinals are also unlikely to survive an aerial blitzkrieg from the Atlanta Falcons and their electric OC Dirk Koetter. In his first season in Atlanta, Koetter had the Falcons soaring to new heights. Fans should expect more of the same in 2014. The Cardinals will close the season out with a home loss to Seattle and an absolute pounding on the road against the 49ers.
With Larry Fitzgerald flanked wide and incoming standout talent John Brown and Ted Ginn Jr. on the roster, Arizona’s passing game is going to be something of a problem for opposing defensive coordinators. The Cardinals’ secondary is also full of talent. Freshman safety Tyrann Mathieu, shutdown DB Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie will be prowling center field, waiting for opposing signal callers to do something stupid.
Life in the NFC West was difficult before. In 2014, things will get downright maddening.
2014 Prediction: 11-5