The Arizona Cardinals are coming off a 2015 season in which they were left wondering what could have happened had starting quarterback Carson Palmer not suffered a season-ending injury in Week 10. At the time of his loss, Arizona was sitting on top the NFC at 8-1 and in the drivers seat for the NFC West title. The Cardinals went just 3-4 the rest of the way and would give way the division to the Seattle Seahawks.

Arizona did manage to earn a Wild Card spot with a respectable 11-5 overall record, but without Palmer under center their hopes of a deep playoff run were slim to none. That proved to be true, as the Cardinals fell 16-27 on the road to the Carolina Panthers in the opening round.

What can’t get lost in last year’s disappointing finish is the amazing job that head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim have done turning this franchise around. In their 2 seasons under Arians the Cardinals have gone 21-11 in the regular season (only won 18 games the previous 3 years combined).

Arizona believes they are a legit contender not only to win the NFC West, but to make a run at another Super Bowl appearance. That could certainly be the case, but the Cardinals will need better fortune in the injury department and will have to overcome some big losses on defense.

Last Season
NFC West
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
2015 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
D.J. Humphries (OT), Markus Golden (DE), David Johnson (RB), Rodney Gunter (DT), Shaquille Riddick (DE), J.J. Nelson (WR), Gerald Christian (TE)
Mike Iupati (OG), Sean Weatherspoon (OLB), Cory Redding (DE), LaMarr Woodley (DE), Corey Peters (DT), A.Q. Shipley (C), Chandler Harnish (QB), Jermaine Gresham (TE)
Antonio Cromartie (CB), Darnell Dockett (DT), John Abraham (OLB), Dan Williams (NT), Rob Housler (TE), Sam Acho (OLB), Paul Fanaika (OG), Ted Ginn (WR), Larry Foote (ILB), Tommy Kelly (DT), Ryan Lindley (QB), Chris Clemons (DB), Lyle Sendlein (C), Jonathan Dwyer (RB), Marcus Benard (LB), John Carlson (TE)
2015 Schedule & Odds
Week Opponent Spread Win Chance
1 Saints -3 0.59
2 @ Bears -1 0.51
3 49ers -2.5 0.55
4 Rams -3.5 0.64
5 @ Lions +1.5 0.47
6 @ Steelers +2.5 0.45
7 Ravens -2 0.53
8 @ Browns -3 0.59
10 @ Seahawks +5.5 0.31
11 Bengals -3 0.59
12 @ 49ers +2 0.47
13 @ Rams +1 0.49
14 Vikings -5.5 0.69
15 @ Eagles +1.5 0.47
16 Packers PK 0.50
17 Seahawks +1.5 0.47
Estimated Wins: 8.32
Roster Breakdown

The Cardinals offense ended the year ranking near the bottom of the league both total offense (319.8 ypg, 24th) and scoring offense (19.4 ppg, 24th), but that was a direct result of Palmer playing in just 6 games (won all 6). In those 6 games, Arizona put up an average of 25.8 ppg and 359.8 ypg.

As you can see, the Cardinals offense is a whole different beast with Palmer on the field. If he can stay healthy, there’s a lot to like about this team, but it’s certainly no guarantee that the 35-year-old will be able to play the full season.

Arizona had to make it a priority to improve the offense line and they did just that. The Cardinals acquired one of the top left guards in the game in Mike Iupati, who will play next to talented left tackler Jared Veldheer. Arizona is also hoping that former 1st round pick Jonathan Cooper will live up to his potential at right guard, which would greatly improve the interior of their line. They also used their 1st round pick this year on tackle D.J. Humphries, who figures to push for the starting job at right tackle.

An improved offensive line and healthy Andre Ellington at running back could do wonders for this offense. Ellington is coming off an injury-plagued 2014 campaign in which he rushed for just 660 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Cardinals as a team ranked 31st in the league with just 81.8 ypg on the ground. The new face of the receiving corps is tight end Jermaine Gresham, filling a big hole after losing both John Carlson and Rob Housler in the offseason.

The receiving corps remains intact led by veteran Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and 2nd-year speedster John Brown. Fitzgerald isn’t the game changer he once was, putting pressure on Floyd to take over as the No. 1 option. Brown was a pleasant surprise, as he caught 48 passes for 696 yards and 5 touchdowns as a rookie.

When Palmer went down for the year, Arizona had to rely on it’s defense to win games. The Cardinals ranked 10th in the NFC in total defense (368.2 ypg) and 3rd in scoring (18.7 ppg). Whether or not the defense will be a strength again in 2015, remains to be seen. Arizona watched defensive coordinator Todd Bowles take over as the new head coach of the New York Jets and his schemes played a big role in Arizona’s defense playing better than their talent level.

The Cardinals not only lose their play caller, but they also have to replace several key pieces, including defensive end Darnell Dockett, nose tackle Dan Williams, linebacker Larry Foote and corner Antonio Cromartie.

There is plenty of talent spread throughout the defense, including their lone returning starter in the trenches in defensive end Calais Campbell. Arizona added in Corey Peters from Atlanta to take over for Williams at nose tackle, while Frostee Rucker and newly acquired Corey Redding will compete for the other starting defensive end spot in the Cardinals 3-4 alignment.

Arizona added in Sean Weatherspoon to replace Foote at the open inside linebacker spot next to Kevin Minter. They also brought in veteran outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley to serve as some insurance behind projected starters Alex Okafor and Matt Shaughnessy. The big concern with this unit is the Cardinals didn’t appear to do enough to fix one of the league’s worst pass rushes. Arizona had just 34 sacks (24th) a year ago and not one player reached double-digits.

Even with the loss of a talented corner like Cromartie, the strength of the defense will be the secondary, which still has one of the elite corners in the game in Patrick Peterson. They also have a talented young safety duo with Deone Bucannon and Tyrann Mathieu, plus are confident in Jerraud Powers being able to step in and play at a high level in place of Cromartie.

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl L
14 to 1
29 to 1
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes

The Cardinals are a team that I think are flying a bit under the radar in 2015, which is easy to do when you play in the same division as the Seattle Seahawks. How many other teams can say they won 21 games over the last 2 years? Arians is a great coach and has proven he can get the most out of his team on a weekly basis.

This year’s schedule has them playing against the AFC North and NFC North, as well as cross-division matchups against the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. With 3 of the first 5 at home and the two road games during this stretch against the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, it’s not out of the question that the Cardinals could start out 5-0. However, things do get a lot tougher from there as they have a pretty challenging slate over their final 11 games.

I have Arizona finishing up the season at 9-7, which I believe will be good enough for 2nd in the NFC West and will put them in the hunt for another Wild Card. Just keep in mind, that is based on Palmer staying healthy. With the defense not expected to be as good, Arizona will likely struggle to stay above .500 if Palmer misses a significant amount of time. If you are willing to gamble on Palmer’s health, I think the Cardinals OVER 8 on their season win total is fairly safe bet, as this team has the potential to match last year’s win total of 11.

NFC West Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
Cardinals 10-Year Recap
Year W L Playoffs Coach Win Total
2014 11 5 Lost WC Arians 7.5
2013 10 6 Arians 5.5
2012 5 11 Whisenhunt 7
2011 8 8 Whisenhunt 7
2010 5 11 Whisenhunt 7.5
2009 10 6 Lost Div Whisenhunt 8.5
2008 9 7 Lost SB Whisenhunt 7.5
2007 8 8 Whisenhunt 7
2006 5 11 Green 8
2005 5 11 Green 7

I asked some more experts on the Arizona Cardinals what they thought about the upcoming season. Here’s what they had to say.

Kaelen Jones

Kaelen Jones

OVER 8 Wins – The Arizona Cardinals finished the 2014 season with an 11-5 record and were eventually eliminated in the Wild Card round by the Carolina Panthers. This year, Arizona looks to replicate and possibly improve on last season’s results.

Entering 2015, the Cardinals’ projected win total is set at eight games, which is certainly reasonable when factoring in the in-division talent of the NFC West that will inevitably cannibalize itself.

Despite this, the Cardinals proved last year that they are a competitive force out of the division—when healthy. Losing starting quarterback Carson Palmer and running back Andre Ellington to injuries, along with backup quarterback Drew Stanton denied Arizona of any shot of playing at its highest potential last year.

Since Week 8 of 2013, Palmer has posted the best win/loss record of any starting quarterback in the league, and prior to injury had led the team to a 6-1 record during which the Cardinals’ offense averaged 23.9 points per game.

The Cardinals didn’t manage to score more than 18 points with Palmer out of the lineup.

With Palmer back to conduct Bruce Arians’ offense with receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, and an improved running game, the offense will be ready to roll. The real question lies on the defensive end.

Highly touted defensive coordinator Todd Bowles left to become the head coach of the New York Jets. His replacement, 37-year-old James Bettcher, doesn’t plan on changing anything schematically and insists the Cardinals will remain aggressive on that side of the ball after only allowing 18.7 points per game in 2014.

Last season, the Cardinals finished 3-3 against in-division opponents, and Palmer had only taken part in one of those games—the 31-14 win over the St. Louis Rams where Palmer suffered his season-ending knee injury. With Palmer back, expect that to only improve.

In 2015, seven of Arizona’s matchups will be against teams that reached the playoffs last season; eight opponents finished with a winning record.

The Cardinals will have to win early on in the year before the schedule gets more difficult after their bye-week in Week 9. The Cardinals will face the Seattle Seahawks twice after the break, and will play the Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers over the final half of the season.

Although with that said, when looking at the Cardinals’ overall schedule, they still should be able to manage more than seven wins this year should they avoid injuries. The offense is improved, the defense hasn’t lost too many major pieces, and everyone is returning healthy.

Jess Root

Jess Root

OVER 8 Wins – If you look at Bruce Arians’ teams each of the past three seasons, they have overshot projections. They are mentally tough and have lots of weapons. The strong home field advantage is good for at least 6 games alone. That means only having to grab 3 on the road to beat the line. With Carson Palmer healthy, they have Super Bowl aspirations. It will take at least 9 games to even make the postseason.

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