Opinions of the Arizona Cardinals are mixed, and with good reason.
Two years ago they won 13 games and reached the NFC Championship Game, and after returning basically the entire team posted a 7-8-1 record and missed the playoffs.
This past offseason saw them lose a handful of key players, but between free agency and the draft it appears as though they may not take a significant step back because of it.
So, as they head into the 2017 season, what kind of team will they be?
That’s the question The MMQB’s Peter King struggled with when compiling his offseason power rankings, in which the Cardinals are placed 15th.
Noting their additions, such as draft picks Haason Reddick and Budda Baker, along with the defections of Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson and Marcus Cooper, King writes that the team appears to have enough talent to win.
He points to the continuity along their coaching staff and in the front office as a plus, before saying we’ll know plenty about the Cardinals’ chances early in the season.
Decisive schedule span: The first three weeks: at Detroit, at Indianapolis, Dallas at home. Three contenders, but none Arizona shouldn’t have a good chance to beat. And for the Cards to shrug off the ghosts of 2016, they’ve got to exit September at least 2-1.
The schedule makers certainly gave the Cardinals a bit of a test early, with their first two games on the road and their third being a Monday Night tilt against one of the NFC’s best teams. If they can get through that early stretch, however, the team enters a part of its schedule that includes home games against San Francisco and Tampa Bay with road contests at Philadelphia and Los Angeles (in London) before a Week 8 bye.
Despite King’s belief in the Cardinals, however, he admits he has the team 15th because he has no idea where to put them.
There are quite literally two significant changes in personnel—in the front office, on the coaching staff, in the starting lineup—from last year’s 7-8-1 team to this year’s team. Last year the Cards were yo-yos: They started 3-3. They finished 3-3. After Thanksgiving, they scored 85 on the Saints and Rams; they gave up 86 to the Falcons and Saints.
At times, such as in victories over the Buccaneers, Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks, the Cardinals looked the part of a playoff team. But they also struggled in losses to the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, showing the flaws that ultimately doomed them.
And the only significant losses were a giant of the front seven—6’8”, 300-pound defensive end Calais Campbell—and versatile safety Tony Jefferson. That’s it. So even if top draftees Haason Redick and Budda Baker and a healthy Tyrann Mathieu make up for the dearly departed in impact, are the Cardinals better than the team that finished the season? That will be the question that veteran coach Bruce Arians and 37-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer have to answer from day one. For most of 2016, this didn’t look like a team that was four quarters from the Super Bowl in 2015.
King’s not wrong, you know.
The writer went on to say the most important factor for the Cardinals in 2017 will be their defense, which was dominant at times in 2016 but wore down over the course of the season.
Arizona finished second in yards allowed while leading the league in sacks and tying for fourth in takeaways, but the 22.6 points per game they surrendered placed them 14th.
With that in mind, King believes the team’s best chance for success in 2017 is to rely on the defense while once again riding running back David Johnson, who in 2016 tallied 2,118 scrimmage yards with 20 total touchdowns.
As for a prediction in 10 words or less, King offered:
This team has a last-gasp feel to me.
https://arizonasports.com/story/1124929 ... gasp-feel/