The Arizona Cardinals deserved to get into the playoffs last year with the season they had. They went 10-6, which was only good enough for third place within their own division. It was only four years ago that the Seattle Seahawks became the NFL’s first 7-9 division champion. Now, both the 49ers and Seahawks seem to win 12 games every year, so the going is certainly tough in the NFC West.

The Cardinals closed 7-2 down the stretch and were the only team to beat the Seahawks on the road all season. In fact, it was the only loss by the Seahawks at home over the past two years. They set out to shore up their weaknesses this offseason, adding left tackle Jared Veldheer, Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie, and first-round rookie safety Deone Bucannon, who could be their next Adrian Wilson.

Arizona entered last year as one of the worst offensive football teams in the league. It made huge strides on that side of the ball behind veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, who threw for 4,274 yards and 24 touchdowns. He will need to improve his accuracy and not give the ball away after throwing 22 interceptions a year ago. He’ll be back to lead what was the league’s 12th-ranked unit in total offense at 346.4 yards per game. From Week 8 on, the Cardinals averaged 27.3 points per game.

Andre Ellington was actually the biggest difference during that stretch. He didn’t have more than 12 touches in any game prior to Week 8, but averaged 13.6 touches the rest of the way. He went off for 154 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries against the Falcons. Ellington averaged 5.5 yards per carry, which was way better than the departed Rashard Mendenhall, who ran for 3.2 yards per carry. Bruce Arians has stated that he wants to get the ball into Ellington’s hands 25-30 times per game this season.

Veldheer, who signed a five-year, $35 million deal this offseason, will be a huge upgrade over Bradley Sowell on the blind side. Jonathan Cooper, the seventh overall pick in 2013, missed his entire rookie season with a fractured fibula. He should be back and ready to go while replacing Daryn Colledge at guard. Lyle Sendlein is a solid center, but right guard Paul Fanaika was atrocious last year and will be pushed by Nate Potter. Bobby Massie will likely take over at right tackle after having a good second half in 2012.

Larry Fitzgerald is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. Still, he caught 82 balls for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns, so it’s hard to knock on the soon-to-be 31-year-old too much. Michael Floyd finally emerged as a legitimate threat opposite Fitzgerald, catching 65 balls for a team-high 1,0-41 yards and five touchdowns. Arizona also added Ted Ginn in free agency and used its second-round pick on Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas.

While the offense was improved last year, it was once again the defense that carried this team. The Cardinals ranked 6th in the league in total defense (317.4 ypg) and 7th in scoring defense (20.2 ppg). Unfortunately, they had two big losses this offseason. Karlos Dansby has signed with the Browns, but the team is high on 2013 second-rounder Kevin Minter as his replacement. The other blow is All-Pro LB Daryl Washington, who will be out for the season due to using marijuana. Minter will be starting beside 34-year-old LB Larry Foote.

The linebacking corps figures to take a step back, but the secondary will be one of the best in the business. The Cardinals locked up Patrick Peterson with a new deal and he is worth every penny as one of the top shutdown corners in the game. Cromartie was bothered by hip and knee injuries last year, and he should be much more effective in the No. 2 corner role, where he won’t have to shadow No. 1 receivers all game. Tyrann Mathieu has paid big dividends thus far, but the team needed another safety after Yeremiah Bell departed. That’s why the front office used its first-round choice on Bucannon.

Getting an improved pass rush would help make up for the losses of Dansby and Washington. Calais Campbell (9 sacks) and John Abraham (11.5 sacks) put plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks last year, but the latter just turned 36. Sam Acho will be called upon as an edge rusher after playing in just three games last year due to a broken fibula. Matt Shaughnessy will also be in the mix because he is the best they have at stopping the run. Nose tackle Dan Williams can clog lanes with the best of them. Darnell Dockett is a supremely talented defensive tackle, but he also just turned 33. Look for rookies Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson to help motivate Dockett.

Last Season
NFC West
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
2014 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
S Deone Bucannon, TE Troy Niklas, DE/DT Kareem Martin, WR John Brown, QB Logan Thomas, DE/DT Ed Stinson
RB Jonathan Dwyer, WR/KR Ted Ginn, TE John Carlson, OT Jared Veldheer, C Ted Larsen, CB Antonio Cromartie
RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Andre Roberts, OT Eric Winston, G Daryn Colledge, ILB Karlos Dansby, ILB Jasper Brinkley, CB Antone Cason, S Yeremiah Bell, KR Javier Arenas
2014 Arizona Cardinals Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/8 Chargers
9/14 @ Giants
9/21 49ers
10/5 @ Broncos
10/12 Redskins
10/19 @ Raiders
10/26 Eagles
11/2 @ Cowboys
11/9 Rams
11/16 Lions
11/23 @ Seahawks
11/30 @ Falcons
12/7 Chiefs
12/11 @ Rams
12/21 Seahawks
12/28 @ 49ers
Estimated Wins: 7.17

Arizona has been done no favors this season. It will be up against the eighth-toughest schedule in the league. Its upcoming opponents went a combined 140-116 last year for a .547 winning percentage. Of course, a lot of that has to do with playing in the tough NFC West, where the 49ers and Seahawks combined to go 25-7.

The Cardinals do get the luxury of beating up on the NFC East division. They also play the AFC West, which had three playoff teams from a year ago but doesn’t figure to be as strong. Then they draw the Lions from the NFC North and the Falcons from the NFC South due to finishing third in their division.

The schedule starts out pretty tough as they get three of their first four games against playoff teams from last year, including the 49ers and Broncos. They then play the easiest stretch of their schedule where they will face five of their next six games against non-playoff teams. The finish is brutal as well with four of their final six games on the road, including two games against Seattle as well as trips to Atlanta and San Francisco.

The oddsmakers agree that it will be a tough schedule for the Cardinals this year. They have pegged them as a favorite in just seven games and an underdog in nine. They have set their win total at 7.5 games, which is pretty much right on par with the lines they set for them.

Odds (Courtesy of Bovada)
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl 49
22 to 1
40 to 1

Bruce Arians did a tremendous job in his first season as Arizona’s head coach. There is no question that this team was better than some of the other teams that made the playoffs last year, but they simply had the misfortune of playing in the toughest division in football. They have been done no favors this year, either.

I do think the offense has a chance to finish in the top half of the league again with Palmer in his second year in the system likely to limit the interceptions. Ellington is in line for a big year, they finally have a dominant receiving duo with Floyd and Fitzgerald, and the offensive line will be better with the addition of Veldheer and the healthy return of Cooper.

The defense also figures to hold its own again, but I don’t think this unit will be as good as last year. The losses of Dansby and Washington are absolutely huge, leaving a lot to be desired at the linebacker position. The defensive line is solid and the secondary is one of the best in the league now, so that will help mask some problems at linebacker.

The Cardinals could wind up being the best last-place team in recent memory. I have them going just 8-8 this season and falling short of the playoffs once again. Palmer is way past his prime and probably the worst quarterback in the division. The losses of Dansby and Washington also have me concerned. In any other division, they would probably be a playoff team.

2014 Projections
NFC West Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
Over 7.5
Cardinals Resources
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