The Cardinals came into 2016 with high hopes after a trip to the NFC Championship Game the previous season, but the team was never able to recover from a 1-3 start, failing to crack .500 at any point all season and finishing 7-8-1.
Now it's 2017, and this may be the last hurrah for quarterback Carson Palmer and franchise legend Larry Fitzgerald. Is a rebound in the cards, or will the Cardinals struggle again? Let's find out what's in store.
Subscribe to the Pick Six Podcast on iTunes to listen to CBS Sports NFL writers Pete Prisco and Will Brinson, NFL Insider Jason La Canfora and host Nick Kostos break down the latest news and action all season.
|Projected wins||Playoffs||Division||Conference||Super Bowl|
SportsLine projects the Cardinals to get back to their winning ways, and a 9-7 finish is the most likely scenario. They're a little better than a coin flip to return to the playoff, and there is some value in taking them to win the NFC if you can get odds at 12/1 or longer.
|Win total||Playoffs||Division||Conference||Super Bowl|
|8 (O -160)||+170||+325||15/1||30/1|
All odds via Westgate.
The win total here is a little low based on the projections above, but there's a big lean from bettors on the Cardinals getting to nine wins. The team is a nice value play on any of their playoff propositions considering how much hype they brought into last season; the Cardinals were given around 12/1 odds to win the Super Bowl last year, and this year they have longer odds just to get there.
Will Brinson defends his 12-4 prediction:
The 2016 version of the Arizona Cardinals felt a little like a team that could not meet the lofty standards set by the outstanding 2015 campaign that was captured on Amazon's Emmy-winning "All or Nothing" sports documentary. And the Cardinals did overachieve a little two years ago. But they were not bad in 2016, just unlucky. Arizona's Pythagorean win total was 9.4 last year; the Cardinals 7-8-1 record indicates they were unlucky to the tune of two full losses. In single-score games, the Cardinals went 2-5-1, including the infamous 6-6 tie against the Seahawks that should have been a win if Chandler Catanzaro, who was released this offseason after costing Arizona multiple games last year, could make a chip shot. If you believe in regression to the mean, the Cardinals profile as a playoff contender again in 2017.
Skeptics point to Carson Palmer's struggles during a down year in 2016, and it's fair to say he was not as good last year as he was in 2015. But that ignores how well he performed down the stretch for Arizona, and if it's a result of changing his throwing schedule later in the year, it isn't unreasonable to see a bounce back, even at the age of 37. David Johnson is a legitimate MVP candidate and Larry Fitzgerald isn't going to fall off a cliff after recording 216 catches the last two years total. John Brown is due for a bounce back and/or can't be much worse, and Chad Williams could make an impact as a rookie.
Defensively there are absolutely concerns, but the flashes we've seen from rookies Budda Baker and Haason Reddick in limited preseason action at least opens up the possibility of them being impact guys out of the gate. If a second cornerback emerges alongside Patrick Peterson, and if Robert Nkemdiche can develop into the player the Cards wanted when they used a first-round pick on him in 2015, this defense can be upper echelon again. This involves betting on Steve Keim's evaluation and Bruce Arians' coaching. That's a gamble I'm willing to take.