6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
Coming into the 2016 season, the Arizona Cardinals are one of the favorites to be playing in February, at least based on the preseason power rankings of Sports Illustrated writer Chris Burke.
He writes, “For the Cardinals … any finish other than one that has them lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy would be a significant letdown. They have been building toward title contention for the past three seasons and were on the cusp of a Super Bowl trip a year ago.”
After last year’s disappointing playoff championship loss to the Carolina Panthers, fans in Arizona would undoubtedly agree with Burke’s assessment. Fortunately, there are many reasons for optimism.
Here are a few:
Carson Palmer had his best season as a signal caller in 2015. His total quarterback rating of 82.1 ranked him first in the league, ahead of Ben Roethlisberger (76.9), Drew Brees (75.5), Russell Wilson (74.9), Andy Dalton (73.1) and so on. Although Cam Newton was named league MVP, Palmer and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady were the only other players who received any votes — pretty good company.
In his 13th season, Larry Fitzgerald continues to be a dominating pass catcher. In 2016 he had 109 grabs for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns. His counterpart on the other side of the field, Michael Floyd, is no slouch with six TDs and 849 yards in 2015. Of course, there is third-year man John Brown who also had more than 1,000 yards in 2015 with 65 catches and seven TDs.
ESPN Insider lists Cardinals running back David Johnson as its top pick for a breakout prospect this season.
“Johnson is built to be a workhorse back. He also made outstanding plays as a receiver, finishing sixth in receiving DYAR among running backs and averaging 4.0 more yards after the catch than expected given where he caught those passes. The usual caveats about running backs apply … but Johnson sure looks like a franchise running back as we enter 2016.”
Backup Chris Johnson had 814 yards and 196 carries in 2015. Andre Ellington has struggled to stay healthy but averaged 6.4 yards per carry on limited attempts last season.
Honey Badger Tyrann Mathieu might be the best safety in the league if he can stay healthy. Apparently, team management is willing to make that bet. Mathieu has a new five-year $62.5 million contract extension with $20 million guaranteed. ESPN writer Josh Weinfuss said the Cards had no choice but to make the deal or risk seeing Mathieu become a Hall of Fame player on another team — he’s that good.
Coupled with cornerback Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals can make a compelling case for having the league’s top secondary. Peterson had a stellar season in 2015 with 35 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He made the Pro Bowl and was named First Team All-Pro.
Former New England Patriot Chandler Jones should give the Cardinals a solid outside pass rusher. They struggled to get to the quarterback in 2015, with just 36 sacks — 20th in the league. Hopes are also high for Robert Nkemdiche, a rookie first-round pick from Ole Miss. Head coach Bruce Arians reportedly had to warn him to take it easy on the offensive linemen during fall camp.
Coaching and management
Since taking over in Arizona for the 2013 season, Arians has compiled a record of 34-14 and the team has gotten markedly better each year. After being named general manager in 2013, Steve Keim’s personnel moves and leadership have been laudatory. He was chosen as NFL Executive of the Year by Pro Football Talk in 2013 and 2014 and by The Sporting News in 2014. It’s no wonder expectations are high among fans, players and sports media experts.
With so much at stake, tickets to Cardinals home games will be highly prized this season. The best way to experience the game is to start with the perfect tailgate experience in the Big Red Rig. The ample cargo room is great to haul any gear you need for tailgate fun and right now you can enter to win. The new military-grade aluminum-alloy body on 2016 models is just one example why it has been the most popular pickup for many years.