Welcome to “This Is Totally Your Year,” our overly optimistic preview of the 2014-15 NFL season for all 32 teams. We’ve broken down why every team — yes, even your team (and yes, even your team, Rams fans) — will win it all this year. We’ll also give some reasons for pessimism and even estimate an actual season prediction. Next up: The Arizona Cardinals.
Out in the schoolyard that is the NFC West, when someone yells “Fight!”, it’s not hard to guess who’s involved. Yep, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll are going at it once again down by the tetherball courts, grappling like a couple of dingoes over the last scrap of meat. And while everyone’s distracted, Jeff Fisher is in the cafeteria eating all the pie.
But people tend to forget that there are four teams in this division, and one of these head coaches has been working out. Bruce Arians wants to make this a three-team race, and he’s just the bad-ass coach with the right tools this year to do it. I mean, would you want to mess with him? Look at this dude!
(Voted Most Likely To Yell “No Running Near The Pool!”).
But we kid coach Arians. Do you realize that he’s the only Cardinals coach with a winning career record (10-6) since the team moved to Arizona? And the only coach in the history of the franchise with a winning record since Don Coryell (1973-77, 42-27)? So they’ve got a good coach, but more than that, the pieces seem to finally be in place to make a serious run at the 49ers and Seahawks.
NO ONE expects the Cardinals Inquisition. Among their weaponry are:
Larry Fitzgerald. You’ve heard of “Air Coryell” and “The Greatest Show On Turf”? This is what people called the Cardinals’ offense the past few seasons:
But this year QB Carson Palmer will have speedy rookie John Brown (see gif above), Michael Floyd, and also please witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational Larry Fitzgerald! The five-time Pro Bowler turned 30 years old last season, and is looking to return to 2011 levels (80 catches for 1,411 yards and 8 TDs) in what he must realize is near the peak time of his physical abilities. We expect his best season ever.
Allowing Palmer and Fitzgerald to get this done will be a vastly improved offensive line — perhaps the best one they’ve had in a long time. At left tackle is Jared Veldheer, who if he stays healthy will be consistent protection on the blind side. The Cardinals need that, because last season was a mess at that position. Jonathan Cooper should be a factor by mid-season (he’s coming back from a broken leg). The rest are very good: Ted Larsen, Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika and Bobby Massie.
Patrick Peterson at LB and Andre Ellington at RB are also poised for great seasons. You can set their motors in two weeks and just let them run, and not worry about it.
Cause for concern: The defense. The Cardinals lost a lot from last season. They led the NFC in run defense in 2013-14, but have lost DE Darnell Dockett (injury), inside linebacker Daryl Washington (suspension) and Karlos Dansby (free agency). That’s gotta hurt.
From the Trenches:
Our supplemental scouting report comes from Sports On Earth editor and veteran Cardinals fan Will Leitch:
The Arizona Cardinals probably have their best coach, and their best team (top to bottom), since they moved to the desert in the mid-80s. They have a smart, prudent front office, an innovative, inspirational head coach and a stadium that’s quietly one of the most fun places in the NFL to watch a game. This should be the high times! Unfortunately, they happen to be playing in the best division in football and therefore can have a historically great Arizona Cardinals team and still not make the playoffs. This is karma repaying the Cardinals for sneaking into the playoffs (and the Super Bowl!) with those late aughts teams. Seriously, though, if you can get to the Pink Taco for a game, it is highly recommended you do so. Even the margaritas are good there.– Will Leitch
Our actual win-loss prediction for the Cardinals: 11-5. Playoffs! We won’t guess as to which two teams they’ll pass in their division, but look for good times in the desert this season. GO CRIMSON FIGHTY BIRDS!