NFL Preview: NFC West - Arizona Cardinals
2016 Record: 7-8-1
Head Coach: Bruce Arians (41-22-1 at Arizona)
Greatest Franchise Moment:
Since they arrived in Phoenix in 1988, the Cardinals’ finest moment was their magical playoff run at the end of the 2008 season. The Cardinals soared past the Falcons, Panthers, and Eagles to advance to their first (and so far only) Super Bowl against Pittsburgh. In a classic David vs. Goliath battle, Arizona nearly toppled the heavily favored Steelers, but lost a heartbreaker 27-23 after a spectacular go-ahead touchdown catch by Pittsburgh receiver Santonio Holmes.
In terms of the franchise’s overall history, the greatest moment occurred when the Chicago Cardinals won the 1947 NFL Championship Game against Philadelphia 28-21. This remains the last time that the Cardinals were perched atop the NFL. Arizona has the dubious distinction of being the only team in the NFC West that has never won the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals are the oldest franchise in the NFL. They were founded as an amateur athletic club in Chicago in 1898 and played in the Windy City until 1960, when they moved to St. Louis. The Cardinals briefly captured St Louis’s imagination during the Don Coryell era, but fan support later waned, and the franchise flew to the desert.
State of the Franchise:
Is the Cardinals’ championship window still open or has it slammed shut? The Cardinals clearly believe it’s the former. Instead of trying to build for the future this offseason, Arizona concentrated on retaining their nucleus and adding old veterans. Quarterback Carson Palmer and superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are back yet again, perhaps for the last time. The Cardinals brought back linebacker Karlos Dansby from Cincinnati but lost defensive end Calais Campbell and four other starters from one of last season’s best defenses. The Cardinals do have a promising young star in running back David Johnson, who will be relied on even more heavily this year.
The Cardinals’ special teams were a disaster last season, dooming the Cardinals to a losing record even though they had a top ten offense and a top five defense. Bruce Arians controversially chose to retain special teams coach Amos Jones, but the team did jettison bumbling kicker Chandler Catanzaro. In keeping with the rest of their geriatric roster, the Cardinals replaced Catanzaro with the ancient Phil Dawson.
Schedule with Predictions in Parenthesis:
At Detroit (L) – An intriguing matchup. Had a tough time picking this one. A win here might be huge for the Cardinals’ hopes.
At Indianapolis (L) – See above.
Dallas (Monday) (L) - Great opportunity for the Cardinals in their home opener, if they can take advantage of it.
San Francisco (W) – winnable game against the rebuilding Niners.
At Philadelphia (L) – Perennially underachieving Eagles might have enough to win this one.
Tampa Bay (W) – Will Cardinals’ defense terrorize Jameis Winston?
Vs. La Rams (London) (W) – First meeting since last year’s 44-6 beat-down in the regular season finale, in which the Rams blatantly quit on interim coach John Fassel. I wonder if Brits will find a huge sack-fest entertaining.
At San Francisco (W) – Easy win for Cards here last year.
Seattle (Thursday) (L) – Cards inexplicably struggle to beat Seattle at home, despite their success in Seattle.
At Houston (L) – Anyone who enjoys low scoring slugfests should tune in to this matchup.
Jacksonville (W) – the dreadful Jags will wilt in the desert.
L.A. Rams (W) – Cards try to avenge their humiliating home loss to the Rams last season.
Tennessee (W) – Marcus Mariota makes his first pro trip to the desert.
At Washington (L) – Like Palmer, Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is probably in his final year with his current team.
N.Y. Giants (L) – Giants players will look forward to getting a respite from December New York weather.
At Seattle (W) – The Seahawks have lost six home games since the Russell Wilson era began in 2012. Half of those defeats were against the Cardinals. Arizona will be brimming with confidence if they enter this game with a shot at the division title.
There is a strong sense of desperation in Arizona. This is an old team teetering on the precipice of a rebuilding period. If the Cardinals have another losing season, the roster will likely be filled with young new faces in 2018. With a 37 year old immobile quarterback trying to survive behind a questionable offensive line, it’s tough to see the Cardinals returning to prominence.