NFL Preview: Arizona Cardinals

This should be interesting….

Well, since apparently some online depth charts are not entirely accurate, I’m forgoing the format I’ve been using, and simply breaking down how I think the teams are going to do, what to watch, etc.

With that being said, on to business…the Arizona Cardinals. Oh, what a difference a year makes. In between this season and the previous one, there has been a mass exodus from Arizona. They have lost Anquan Boldin, Kurt Warner, Karlos Dansby, Antrell Rolle, among others. These changes alone give the team an entirely new look, but when you also factor in the addition of Joey Porter, along with the chance for recievers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet to shine…it changes the team completely. Whether or not it is for the better remains to be seen.

Matt Leinart is NOT Kurt Warner. I know that is an obvious truth, but it is one I feel like needs to be stressed. Why? Because Arizona fans should be tempering their expectations from the passing game. Granted, there have been talks about Leinart being placed on the trading block, but let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that Leinart DOES end up being traded. Who does that leave? Derek Anderson? One could argue that Anderson could shine under the Arizona banner, but here’s the thing: He isn’t Kurt Warner either. Anderson, the former Brown, is streaky, at best. He had his moments in Cleveland, but under a new system, a new team, and a new environment, I don’t think he would produce, at least not immediately. The bottom line is, the passing game is not the same as it was last year, and this change will answer one question I have going into this season: How good IS Larry Fitzgerald? We know he’s a playmaker, we know he can play like a man among boys, but if he were able to produce given the hand he’s been dealt right now…that would truly cement his place among the NFL’s elite.

As a Michigan Wolverines fan, it pains me to talk about Beanie Wells…but I do believe he has the talent to overtake Tim Hightower as the starter this year…IF he has improved on holding the ball. Otherwise, Hightower will not only remain the starter, but I could see a spike in his TD production as well. Obviously, he is ideal for goal-line situations, but we tend to forget he can break off a big one as well.

The Arizona defense, like I said about the Bengals, is also very underrated. You’re looking at veterans like Porter and Adrian Wilson, who both can still make big plays, to help teach the younger guys a few things, then you have Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, whose tackles, INT’s, and pass deflections have increased every year. As he grows more comfortable in his role, he gains confidence, and he’s got the goods to become a force to be reckoned with. This could be a breakout year for him, given the schedule that the Cardinals have to work with.

Speaking of the schedule, the Cardinals also look to have a pretty decent one, playing the Rams twice, the Seahawks twice, the Raiders, the Chiefs, the Buccaneers…if there was ever a schedule for a team to desire this season, this could be it. Their only real competition in the NFC West is the 49’ers, as both the Seahawks and the Rams look like they might struggle this year. However, because of the difference in schedule strength, I would say the Cardinals have a chance to take the division, and from there, possibly make the NFC championship game. Sure, they’ve lost a lot of players, but they can overcome it, and I believe the Arizona Cardinals could be a VERY interesting team to wach this season.

My Projected Record: 10-6

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