Arizona will open the 2015 season looking to answer that question with Carson Palmer back under center and they could be poised for a strong start beginning at home against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1.
How Has The Betting Line Moved?
Open: Arizona -2.5
Current: Arizona -3
The Cards have inched up slightly but not a whole lot. The Saints had a rough finish to the 2014 season and while they are still highly regarded, the Cards are a tough team to beat at home. The odds makers seem to have set the right line in this spot.
3 Key Storylines
A Strong Start Could Be In The Cards: Winning the NFC West won’t be easy with the Seattle Seahawks looking to bounce back from last year’s Super Bowl disappointment while both the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers pose tough challenges in an additional four games on the schedule but all signs point to the 49ers regressing this season and that could help to play in to the potential for a strong start for Arizona. The Cardinals open the year with a home game against the Saints before travelling to face the lowly Chicago Bears so there is a very good chance they open the season at 2-0. Next up is a home game against San Francisco, followed by a visit from the Rams. Arizona will have its hands full trying to win the NFC West again this season but a good start would provide a tremendous boost and they will certainly have the potential to sweep their first four opponents.
Saints Seeking An Identity: There is no doubt that the Saints are a team in transition following the offseason trade of star tight end Jimmy Graham and a retooling of a defense that was once again far too soft last season. There is no guarantee the defensive changes pay immediate dividends either as linebacker Dannell Ellerbe missed almost all of last season with the Miami Dolphins while cornerback Brandon Browner has dealt with suspensions that have kept him off the field and inconsistencies on the field. Browner was carted off the field during New Orleans’ first preseason game while defensive backs Kenny Vaccaro and Keenan Lewis have both missed practice time this preseason. Drew Brees has been a rock for the Saints but he lost two of his top three receivers from last season with Kenny Stills traded to Miami and Graham moved to Seattle so there could be a transition period. The Saints have gone from being a perennial contender to facing several key question marks on both sides of the football that could lead to a slow start out of the gate.
Running In The Desert: The one area of need for Arizona heading in to this preseason was at the running back spot where head coach Bruce Arians spoke openly about the concerns he had with an injury to starter Andre Ellington in particular a major problem. The Cardinals addressed the issue by signing veteran running back Chris Johnson to a one-year deal hoping that with a similar skill set to Ellington he can help provide a spark. Johnson will turn 30-years-old in September and averaged 4.3 yards per carry for 663 yards and a touchdown with the New York Jets last season but will get every opportunity to show what he can do in Arizona.
Bet Early or Bet Later…. And What’s The Play?
The fact that the line moved from Arizona -2.5 to -3 is obviously a big deal and that trend could continue if more money continues to pour in on the Cardinals. Arizona was one of the best teams in the NFL last season even without quarterback Carson Palmer under center and his return to the lineup will be a major upgrade for their offense. The Saints are a team in transition and while they still have some quality pieces it’s hard to argue this year’s roster is better than the one that led New Orleans to a 7-9 record in the terrible NFC South division last season. The Cardinals feel they have the potential to contend for a Super Bowl with a healthy Palmer under center this season and they should be able to find a way to cover the field goal at home versus New Orleans in their opener.
NFL Pick: Arizona -3 at BetOnline