The Arizona Cardinals are a force to be reckoned with and don’t be surprised if they make it deep into the playoffs.
Everyone knows about the stellar season the Carolina Panthers are having. Everything appears to be clicking for them and they’re on the brink of having a perfect regular season record. Although they have been playing incredible football, there is another team in the NFC that has been as impressive and that is the Arizona Cardinals.
The Arizona Cardinals had high expectations this year. After being completely deflated by injuries at the quarterback position last season, you could see that the team was inspired to make an impact this year and the message has been made loud and clear. Although the Cards were rather successful last year, their numbers this year are speaking volumes. Ranked first in the NFL in yards per game and second in scoring, this offense is not afraid to be explosive and make some noise. Carson Palmer appears to have found the fountain of youth and is on pace to put up career numbers in touchdowns, QBR, and in passer rating. At the ripe old age of 35, Palmer is putting up numbers you would only expect from elite quarterbacks. This year alone he has thrown for over 4,000 yards along with 32 touchdowns while limiting his interceptions to only 9.
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What truly separates this Cardinals team from last year’s team is their rushing attack. Arizona ranks in the top ten this year in rushing yards per game compared to last year where they ranked 31st. Despite the prevalent injuries to the backfield, there is always someone stepping up and making plays. Both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington got injured, and David Johnson has stepped up in a big way. In the past three weeks Johnson has run for 378 yards and three touchdowns which included the 187 yards against the Eagles last week. Bruce Arians has made it clear that he is going to be running the ball and setting the tone with the running game. In case you missed who David Johnson is, this clip is all you need to know about him.
In addition to the high octane offense, another factor that teams need to face when playing against this team is their defense, which is ranked seventh in yards per game. The Cardinals defense has been a near nightmare for opposing teams. Opposing offenses are converting on third down only thirty-five percent of the time and scoring only 19.6 point per game which also rank top ten in the league. In addition, they have the third-most forced fumbles in the NFL at 25. Having a solid rushing attack is critical for most teams but they might find it difficult to establish against these guys. Arizona has held opponents to 86 rushing yards per game, which is good for fourth in the league. Even if there’s a team that stops their high-octane offense, they’re going to have difficulty moving the ball downfield. Although they are middle of the road in passing defense, this defense is relentless and will create turnovers.
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There has been speculation that Arizona has been successful but it has been against mostly mediocre teams. It is true that they have only beaten three teams that are playoff-bound (Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Seattle), however, most of the sub-par teams that they have beaten have been blowouts. Their average margin of victory thus far has been by more than 14 points against those opponents.
It is rather apparent that Arizona has been playing good football. With the playoffs around the corner, they are starting to play at another level. The Cardinals have limited their turnovers significantly in recent weeks. In the first ten weeks, their turnover margin was mostly even. In the past four weeks, they have committed zero turnovers and their turnover margin is now plus ten. This team has been dominating in every phase of their game.
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The Arizona Cardinals have something that most teams lack in the NFL, they are a nearly complete team. Usually most teams will have a specialty in a certain area such as their passing game but the Cardinals are doing great things in multiple categories, not just one specific category. If the offense isn’t clicking, the defense will keep them in the game. If the defense is struggling, the offense will keep them in the game. At the rate this team is playing, they are going to be extremely difficult to stop in the playoffs. This is a force to be reckoned with and I would not be surprised to see them not only make it to the Super Bowl, but actually win the Super Bowl. Watch out football fans, the Arizona Cardinals are here to stay.
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