Cardinals window to win closing fast:
The past few seasons have resurrected Arizona Cardinals football, but last season was marred by injuries and disappointment. Yet, the same core of veteran players will return this season with the goal remaining the same: winning the Super Bowl. With QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald returning for their 15th and 14th seasons respectively, this season may be the last real opportunity to achieve that goal.
Not having to rely solely on Palmer’s aging arm, the Cardinals can run their offense through star running back, David Johnson. Last season, he finished the year with 1,239 rushing yards, giving him 4.2 yards per attempt. He also added 879 receiving yards, giving him 2,118 all-purpose yards. At just 25 years of age, look for the Cardinals to get him even more touches this season in both the rushing and passing game. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him end up with 1,500 rushing yards and between 900-1,000 receiving yards. He will have a monster season.
Running their offense through Johnson can open up the offense for Palmer to make some key throws when needed. Look for him to make shorter and smarter passes this season, while eliminating the turnovers by not going deep as often. Last season, Palmer threw 28 TDs with 14 interceptions. Time and time again he would make risky passes downfield, which burned him. If Head Coach Bruce Arians makes some adjustments with play calling, they will then have the opportunity to burn defenses with the long ball occasionally with receivers JJ Nelson, and John Brown. Larry Fitzgerald can continue being Palmer’s favorite target on the shorter routes. This offense will have the ability to put up 30 points per game, if players remain healthy.
Moving on to the defense, the Cardinals addressed a few needs in this years draft. Both Haason Reddick and Budda Baker should be contributors from week one. Questions still surround who will play corner opposite of Patrick Peterson. Whoever gets that assignment will need to be up to the task. Teams don’t throw Peterson’s way very often, so it’ll be interesting to see how other cornerbacks on the roster develop. I expect the Cardinals defensive line to get to the passer often this season with the likes of Marcus Golden and Chandler Jones returning for the Cardinals. Other players to watch on defense will be Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Bethel, and Brandon Williams. If they can find a way to stop the run and find another reliable cornerback, this defense could be better than many thought.
In order to make the playoffs this season, it’s likely the Cardinals will need to win 10 or 11 games. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look into their schedule. One noticeable factor I see is most of Arizona’s tough games come at home this season. Some key games include Week 3 (Cowboys), Week 6 (Buccaneers), Week 10 (Seahawks), Week 14 (Titans), and Week 16 (Giants). If Arizona can manage to win two or three of those games, they should be in great shape to reach that 10/11 win mark. Here’s how I see the season shaping up for the Cardinals:
I fully expect the Cardinals to bounce back and make a run for either a wild card or the NFC West crown. Avoiding injuries, solidifying the run defense, improving special teams, and finding a second cornerback will be critical in order for that to happen. Football season is almost here!