2015 Arizona Cardinals Predictions: 2nd NFC West (2014 record: 11-5)
Head Coach: Bruce Arians
NFC West Division Odds: +450
Super Bowl Champion Odds: +2500
Season Win Totals Over-Under Odds: Over 8.5 (-105), Under 8.5 (-125)
Key Additions: Jimmy Graham (TE), Cary Williams (CB), Frank Clark (DE/OLB)
Key Losses: Byron Maxwell (CB), Max Unger (C), Malcolm Smith (LB)
Key Additions: Mike Iupati (OG), DJ Humphries (OT), Sean Weatherspoon (LB)
Key Losses: Antonio Cromartie (CB), Dan Williams (NT)
Again, it was a tale of two halves for the Cardinals in 2014, just like the previous year. Last season, however, a fast start was destroyed by the loss of their top two QBs as both Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton were injured. The defense just couldn’t keep enough points off of the board and a disappointing first-round loss to Carolina couldn’t be avoided. The o-line was improved so we’ll see if improved protection can keep Palmer on the field this year.
The Cards defense performed admirably last year, holding their opponents to 20 points or less in a fantastic thirteen games. Unfortunately, they lost key members in Williams and Cromartie and didn’t make significant upgrades in deficient areas. Cromartie actually outplayed Patrick Peterson last year, but Peterson was dealing with some health issues that have since been resolved. He should be back to his top shelf self. Unfortunately, there is nobody to play alongside him, and the roster is paper thin at the position.
Safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon, though very young, should be improved after experiencing some growing pains last year. A replacement for the mountainous Williams wasn’t found either, and his run-stuffing ability will be missed greatly. The other concern amongst the front seven is the lack of a pass rush, aside from DE Calais Campbell, who only generated a pedestrian seven sacks last season. The Cards reached for help in the second round with DE/OLB Markus Golden, who many viewed as a day three pick.
Same old song and dance for the Cards offense; the passing game, when healthy, dominated the field of play while the rushing attack was non-existent. Andre Ellington has a world of talent, but is unable to stay healthy and will be challenged by rookie David Johnson for playing time. Both backs are versatile three-down types who may share time very nicely. The other big issue, the line, was significantly upgraded by stealing Humphries late in the first round; he was projected as a 12-18 pick on many boards so the Cards were ecstatic to nab him at 24.
A return to health for Jonathan Cooper would be welcomed as well. He struggled coming back from a broken leg and was out of shape for much of the season. Early camp reports have his conditioning being much better – looks like he’s ready to show why he was a top draft pick a few years back. Adding veteran Iupati will stabilize the run blocking, though he isn’t a top pass protector. As for the passing game, Palmer is again going to start under center and appears to be AOK after his ACL tear. And while Larry Fitzgerald appears to be on the downside of his career, Michael Floyd and John Brown appear to be more than capable of stepping in and up.
The other teams in the division have taken steps back, and the Cards could conceivably challenge Seattle for the division. The rest of the schedule isn’t overly challenging – save for a brutal close to the season with games at Philly and home against Green bay and Seattle. The Cards, though, could have nine wins by that point so we’ll go with the OVER.