Arizona Cardinals Predictions

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arizona cardinals predictions

The Arizona Cardinals went an impressive 10-6 in their first season under head coach Bruce Arians, which was a drastic improvement over their 5-11 campaign in 2012. Unfortunately for the Cardinals they play in the best division in football and ended up finishing just 3rd in NFC West and out of the playoffs due to the Saints and 49ers securing the two Wild Card spots with records of 11-5.

Overall there was a lot to like, most notably how this team finished down the stretch. After a mediocre 3-4 start to the year, Arizona caught fire and finished the season on a 7-2 run, which included an impressive 17-10 win at Seattle in Week 16, snapping the Seahawks 14-game home winning streak.

With the focus now shifted ahead to 2014, the big question is whether or not the Cardinals have done enough to build on last year and overtake the Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West. Before I get into where I see Arizona finishing in the standings, lets take a closer look at what the Cardinals will send to the field on both sides of the ball.

Last Season
NFC West
Record
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Over/Under
3rd
10-6
10-5-1
5-3
5-2-1
8-8
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
12th
6th
-1
23.7
20.2
2014 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
S Deone Bucannon, TE Troy Niklas, DE/DT Kareem Martin, WR John Brown, QB Logan Thomas, DE/DT Ed Stinson
Additions
RB Jonathan Dwyer, WR/KR Ted Ginn, TE John Carlson, OT Jared Veldheer, C Ted Larsen, CB Antonio Cromartie
Losses
RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Andre Roberts, OT Eric Winston, G Daryn Colledge, ILB Karlos Dansby, ILB Jasper Brinkley, CB Antone Cason, S Yeremiah Bell, KR Javier Arenas
2014 Preview
2014 Arizona Cardinals Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/8 Chargers
-3
0.59
9/14 @ Giants
+3
0.41
9/21 49ers
+2.5
0.45
Week 4 BYE
-
-
10/5 @ Broncos
+9
0.19
10/12 Redskins
-4
0.66
10/19 @ Raiders
-3.5
0.64
10/26 Eagles
-2
0.53
11/2 @ Cowboys
+2.5
0.45
11/9 Rams
-4
0.66
11/16 Lions
-2.5
0.55
11/23 @ Seahawks
+10.5
0.14
11/30 @ Falcons
+4
0.34
12/7 Chiefs
-2
0.53
12/11 @ Rams
+2.5
0.45
12/21 Seahawks
+3.5
0.36
12/28 @ 49ers
+7.5
0.22
Estimated Wins: 7.17

A lot of the attention in Arizona is being paid to their defense, but it was the improvements on offense that this team made under Arians that got them over the hump. Just one season removed from finishing dead last in total offense (263.1 ypg) and 31st in scoring (15.6 ppg), the Cardinals rose to 12th in yards gained (346.4 ypg) and 17th in scoring (23.7).

Arians deserves the bulk of the credit for the offense getting better, but the main culprit on the field was veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, who came over as free agent to throw for 4,274 yards and 24 touchdowns. As impressive as Palmer was in his first season in Arizona, he’s going to have to cut down drastically on 22 interceptions.

The Cardinals believe that an upgraded offensive line will allow Palmer to do just that. Arizona went out and signed a proven left tackle in Jared Veldheer, plus they will be getting back talented left guard Jonathan Cooper, who missed his entire rookie season with a broken leg. The rest of the group returns led by underrated center Lyle Sendlein and solid right tackle Bradley Sowell.

With a better offensive line protecting him, it should allow Palmer more time to get the ball outside to his dynamic duo at receiver in veteran Larry Fitzgerald and emerging wide out Malcolm Floyd. The two combined for 149 receptions for 1,995 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2013. Arizona did lose talented No. 3 wide out Andre Roberts, but did a nice job replacing him with free agents Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie John Brown. The Cardinals also have a lot of talent at tight end, which includes veteran John Carlson and talented rookie Troy Niklas.

Not only will an improved offensive line help the passing game, but it should help the Cardinals improve on the 23rd ranked rushing attack (96.2 ypg) from last year. With the retirement of Rashard Mendenhall and release of Ryan Williams, the door is wide open for 2nd year back Andre Ellington to step in and shine as the starter. As a rookie backup in 2013, Ellington rushed for 652 yards and 3 touchdowns, while posting a league-high 5.5 yards/carry. On top of that, Ellington caught 39 passes for 371 yards and a score. Free agent pickup Jonathan Dwyer and youngster Stepfan Taylor will serve as the backups in 2014.

Surprisingly it’s the defense that some worried about the Cardinals taking a step back this season. Arizona will be without their two talented inside linebackers from 2013. Karlos Dansby left via free agency for more money in Cleveland, while Daryl Washington was suspended for the year due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Without these two in the mix, there’s a ton of pressure on 2nd year linebacker Kevin Minter and veteran free agent addition Larry Foote to step in and play well.

The losses at inside linebacker aren’t the only question mark surrounding the Cardinals’ linebacker corps. Veteran outside linebacker John Abraham came over from Atlanta prior to last year and was an instant hit with a team-high 11.5 sacks. However, Abraham will be 36 when the season starts. Arizona has to be worried about a decline in production and his ability to stay healthy given his age. There’s also not much in terms of pass rushing talent at outside linebacker behind Abraham.

The good news is that the rest of the defense will be rock solid. The Cardinals have a strong trio up front with Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams. No question who the star of this unit is. Campbell recorded 9.5 sacks last year and the scary thing is he’s still got the potential to get even better.

The strongest unit in Arizona is the secondary, which figures to rival the Seahawks for the best in the league. The Cardinals went out and signed talented veteran corner Antonio Cromartie to play opposite of the ultra-gifted Patrick Peterson. Hard to find a better 1-2 punch in the NFL. Arizona also used their 1st round pick on Deone Bucannon, who is expected to step in and start right away at strong safety. They also get back talented free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who showed flashes of big time potential as a rookie.

Odds
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl XLVIX
7.5
19 to 1
42 to 1
Odds Courtesty of Bovada
Predictions

As much as I would like to go out on a limb and pick the Cardinals to win the NFC West in 2014, I can’t pull the trigger. It’s not because this team is short on talent, but simply because they play in the best division in football and have two of the elite teams in the league in Seattle and San Francisco sitting in their way. On top of that the Rams are another up-and-coming team out of the division.

I had every intention of picking the Cardinals to repeat last year’s success, but I think the defense is going to disappoint after losing their two big playmakers in the middle of the field in Dansby and Washington. Offensively there’s a lot to like, but I’m not a big believe in Palmer being the quarterback to take this team to the next level. He’s well past his prime at the age of 34 and makes too many careless mistakes.

With that said, the schedule does set up well for Arizona to remain a competitive force in the NFC. The Cardinals are capable of beating anyone at home and have a trio of winnable road games against the Giants, Cowboys and Raiders. When it’s all said and done I have Arizona taking a slight step back and finishing the year at 8-8, which I believe will have them finishing in a tie for 3rd with the Rams. This team definitely has the potential to prove me wrong and surprise everyone, which is why I don’t hate the OVER on the Cardinals 7.5 win total.

Projections
NFC West Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
T-3rd
2-4
8-8
OVER 7.5
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