The Arizona Cardinals are coming off a sensational regular season that saw them win the NFC West at 13-3. Their first division title since 2009 and most wins in franchise history.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals it ended badly in the postseason. Arizona was able to escape with a 26-20 overtime win against Green Bay, but it all went downhill after that. The Cardinals got embarrassed 49-15 by the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.
Just about everything that could go wrong went wrong for Arizona in that game. Carson Palmer turned it over six times and the defense was shredded.
That kind of loss on that stage can derail the spirits of a team, but that’s doesn’t appear to be the case. Arizona is out to prove that game was a fluke and to finish off the job with a Super Bowl in 2016.
The Cardinals certainly appear to be one of the best teams in the NFL, but their window may be closing in a hurry. First order of business will be holding off the Seahawks in the NFC West. A feat that figures to be much tougher than it was last year.
2016 Roster Changes
Top Draft Picks
|DE/DT Robert Nkemdiche, CB Brandon Williams, C/G Evan Boehm|
|G Evan Mathis, DE Chandler Jones, S Tyvon Branch|
|OT Bobby Massie, G Jonathan Cooper, C Lyle Sendlein, DT Cory Redding, CB Jerraud Powers, S Rashad Johnson|
2016 Schedule & Odds
|Week||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|Estimated Wins: 9.97|
Whether or not the Cardinals will live up to the hype in 2016 will come down to the health of Palmer. When he’s at full strength, Arizona’s offense is arguably the best in the league. The problem is he’s now 36 and one big hit away from being sidelined.
Last year he suffered a finger injury late in the season and was never the same. It was a big part of his poor play in the NFC Championship Game.
Keeping him healthy in 2016 was clearly one of their top priorities this offseason. Arizona bolstered their offensive line by adding free agent guard Evan Mathis. He will join standouts Jared Veldheer at left tackle and Mike Iupati at left guard.
Just how good this unit is will come down to two youngsters. Arizona is counting on D.J. Humphries to emerge at right tackle. Keep in mind the Cardinals selected him in the first round last year and he never played. They are also hoping rookie Evan Boehm can replace the pedestrian A.Q. Shipley at center.
If the offensive line comes into form like Arizona is anticipating, look out. The Cardinals struck gold in last year’s 3rd round pick of running back David Johnson. He’ll be in line for a monster season. Arizona also has a capable backup in veteran Chris Johnson.
Arizona also returns their dynamic trio at wide receiver. Led by veteran Larry Fitzgerald. Who showed no signs of slowing down with a 109 receptions in 2015. John Brown and Michael Floyd round out the trio. All of which are capable of surpassing 1,000 yards.
The Cardinals ranked inside the top 10 of almost every major defensive stat but sacks. Which they tied for 20th with just 36. Improving in this department was a major goal this offseason.
Most believe that mission was accomplished. First they made a blockbuster trade for New England’s Chandler Jones. He had 12.5 sacks last year with the Patriots and Arizona believes he got the potential for even more.
His addition could aid a breakout year for second-year outside linebacker Markus Golden. He had 4 sacks as a rookie, with 3 coming in the final 6 games. Teams won’t be paying attention to him, so he’ll have every chance to shine.
The other two linebacker spots will be manned by Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter. Bucannon is a hybrid safety/linebacker that plays mainly in the box. He’s great in coverage but needs to be better in run-support.
The other big offseason addition came in the draft. Arizona used it’s first round pick on Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche. A top 10 talent that fell because of off-field concerns. The exact kind of player that head coach Bruce Arians likes to target.
If Arians can work his magic with Nkemdiche the Cardinals are going to be in great shape up front. Not only can he be a force against the run, but he can get after the quarterback. Potentially an even better version of teammate Calais Campbell. Veteran nose tackle Corey Peters figures to thrive sandwiched between these two.
Like Nkemdiche, Arians gambled on taking LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. That moved certainly paid off, as Mathieu has emerged into a elite talent in the NFL. The only problem has been his ability to stay healthy. He tore his ACL in December and the defense was never the same.
Arizona also has another elite talent in the secondary in corner Patrick Peterson. However, the team did lose starting safety Rashad Johnson. Veteran free agent addition Tyvon Branch is the frontrunner to fill the void. As for the other corner, that figures to once again be Justin Bethel.
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC West
to Win Super Bowl
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
On paper the Cardinals have one of the best rosters in the NFL, especially if just looking at the starters. While they have depth across the board, they can not afford to lose Palmer. Something that is a major concern given his history with injuries and age.
With him healthy they are a Super Bowl contender. Without him they likely don’t make the playoffs. I have to believe that scare is a big reason oddsmakers only set their win total at 9.5. Otherwise there’s really no reason to explain the low number.
I’m making my prediction based on Palmer staying healthy and I believe with him on the field they will go 12-4. I have Seattle rated almost identical to Arizona and also have them going 12-4. With that said, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cardinals matched last year’s 13-3 record. Keep in mind, they catch a big break getting to play New England at home in Week 1 while Tom Brady is suspended.
NFC West Finish
Win Total Prediction
Cardinals 10-Year Recap