July 26, 2016 - Joe Mason
Can The Cardinals Take A Step Further in 2017? What Will It Take?
The Arizona Cardinals look like a Super Bowl contender at times, but then other times look pretty pedestrian. Last year they got to the NFC Championship Game, but once they got arrived, looked wretched while getting blown out by the Carolina Panthers. Can Carson Palmer and the Cardinals get one game better and make it to the Super Bowl in 2017? To answer this question, let's first look at the other teams in the Cards division, the NFC West. The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers would not appear to be good enough to finish ahead of the Cardinals. But the Seattle Seahawks very well could. This would put the Cards in the Wild Card round of the NFC playoffs. If that happens it means the Cardinals winning playoff games on the road. We saw how that went last year in Charlotte. So it seems almost necessary for them to win the division. Let's look at the Cardinals schedule, and see how realistic that is. They start the season with a home game against the New England Patriots. This could be a break since Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games. Brady will be back for the Pats game with the Seattle Seahawks. So the Cardinals could pick up a game there. Tampa Bay comes in for the second game. The Bucs should be improved over last year with second year quarterback Jameis Winston, but we still like the Cards in this one. The Cards also catch a break in Week Three because they go on the road to face the Buffalo Bills. If you have to play at Buffalo, playing there in September is when you want to do it because of the horrible weather conditions in November/December. The Cards have a great chance here too. Week Four brings the Los Angeles Rams to the desert. The Cardinals should have a tough time, but they still can win at home. It seems like the first four games should leave the Cards at least a 3-1 to start, maybe even 4-0. Then in Weeks Five through Eight, they have the San Francisco 49ers on the road, home games with the New York Jets and Seahawks and a road game with the Carolina Panthers. We know how tough that game at Carolina will be, but it still feels like a good chance they can split these four. They should beat the Niners and they ought to be able to get one of two between the Jets and Seahawks. So the Cards should being no worse than 5-3 at the halfway point seems very realistic. Weeks Nine through Twelve have the 49ers at home, then away games with the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons and a home game with the Washington Redskins. If the cardinals can win in all four of these games where they are likely the much better team, that will put Arizona at 9-3. The last four games are at the Miami Dolphins, a home game with the New Orleans Saints and two away games at the Seahawks and Rams. They should be able to get a split out of these two games. That puts their predicted finals regular season record at 11-5. The question thought is will that be enough to win the division? It will most likely end up being very close. If the Cardinals can win the games they’re supposed to, and maybe even a few that they “shouldn’t,” they’ll be on their way to have a potential home field advantage in the early rounds of the playoff, possibly throughout. That just may be the missing pieces in order for them to make it back to the Super Bowl. Can they do it one more time for Larry Fitztgerald? Let’s hope so, the all time great deserves it!