We'll break down Cardinals records against the speads, totals & project what we'll see in for them this season since the Cardinals managed to play very well despite and a ton of injuries last year.
A Healthy Carson Palmer is Mandatory For Success
When Carson Palmer went down with a season ending injury, the Arizona Cardinals season went down with it despite leading their division and being one of the top seeded teams in the playoffs. It was to the point where the Cardinals would have a far superior regular season record than their respective opponent and without Palmer, would be the clear underdog in the playoffs and future betting.
For the season, the Cardinals finished up at 11-5 straight up, 11-5 against the spread, and with a lack of offense, having to go to a 2nd and 3rd string quarterback, they played some low scoring games with 10 out of their 16 regular season games going under the total and one push. Basically, the NFL odds makers couldn't provide a total low enough for this offensively challenged football team without Palmer.
Arizona did show great strength in the desert at home as they only lost one home game straight up all season long. Expect the Cardinals to be back near the top of the NFC West Division as their defense is one of the best in the NFL, ranking number 4 and Palmer will have the tandem of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd to throw the football to.
Most Underused Player in the NFL
Larry Fitzgerald has had a great career, but hasn't had the opportunity to catch the football as much as a player such as Dez Bryant. When Palmer was in the game, Fitzgerald was getting targeted more, but as soon as the USC graduate was injured, Fitz didn't see the ball nearly as much.
For the season, Fitzgerald caught just 2 touchdowns to go along with 784 yards on 63 receptions. Fitzgerald has some of the best hands in the NFL at his respective position and at 6 foot 4, has a great reach advantage, but when backup, Drew Stanton, entered the scene, he wasn't seeing the ball as much.
This is a player that could've played somewhere else to pad his stats, but stayed loyal to his team. Fitzgerald is still at the tail end of his prime and on pace for a hall of fame career, but this is the year that Fitz breaks out. You give him a prime time quarterback like Kurt Warner in the past and Carson Palmer in the present and Fitzgerald will produce.
Michael Floyd was also highly touted receiver coming out of Notre Dame and has been the perfect complimentary receiver to Fitzgerald. We could possibly see 2 -1000 yard receivers if all falls in place for Arizona.
Ground Game Grounded
Where Arizona really needs improvement is their rushing attack. They averaged a pathetic 3.3 yards rushing per carry, 81.8 yards rushing per game, and just 6 rushing touchdowns. The combination of Andre Ellington (660 yards,3 TD, 3.0 yards per carry) and Stepfan Taylor were clearly ineffective.
The Cards don't need a 1000 yard rusher as they are loaded everywhere else, including defensively. What they need is a little more ground and pound in red zone situations and more efficiency running the football. This will be key if they're to go deep into the playoffs an finish off what they started last season.
With Palmer back behind center, I'm expecting a 10-6 to 11-5 season and a better opportunity in the playoffs as this team has veterans that can play at the key positions.