Bailey Deeler: Both teams did a very good job in the offseason. The Rams were 7-8-1 and were on the cusp of reaching the playoffs when the season ended, while the 5-11 Cardinals had an abundance of holes to fill. New general manager Steve Keim did a great job of filling Arizona’s needs, starting with quarterback. Arizona’s quarterbacks posted an atrocious 63.1 passer rating in 2012, so it’s safe to say an upgrade was needed.
Carson Palmer posted a 101.1 passer rating in 2005, and he has the potential to take the Cardinals far. He has more talent around him than he’s ever had, as he didn’t have much to work with in Cincinnati and Oakland. Stepfan Taylor, Andre Ellington and Rashard Mendenhall are all hard to tackle, and all will add needed depth at running back. The Cardinals took Ryan Swope at wide receiver in the sixth round, and Swope can spread the field for Palmer with his speed (he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash).After selecting Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford and returning Levi Brown, the Cardinals have the depth and talent to succeed on the offensive line as well. They filled every hole they needed to fill on offense, which will completely transform the team. The defense was already solid, but it needed work after the loss of Daryl Washington. Arizona signed Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby and drafted Kevin Minter to fill this hole, and it drafted Tyrann Mathieu for speed and playmaking ability in the secondary.
The Rams improved on offense with Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, which could bring back old memories of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt for Rams fans. The two will team up with Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens to add lots of depth at wide receiver, which will be huge for Bradford. The offense is going to break out, even though it lost Steven Jackson. I see Daryl Richardson breaking out, and I see the secondary stepping up. T.J. McDonald was a great pickup, and Darian Stewart’s return will help as well.
Alec Ogletree is a tackling machine, and he can be molded into a great player by a great coach in Jeff Fisher. The Rams didn’t make high-profile signings on defense, but they filled the holes they needed to fill. The Cardinals made some more notable signings, but they also filled the holes they needed to. I say the Cardinals improved more, but they had more to do. Both teams did what they needed to do.
Will the Cardinals be able to bounce back against the Rams and the NFC West?
Bailey Deeler: I do think the Cardinals could steal a game from the Rams in Week 1, but they won’t do well against the division. With Bradford and his new toys developing chemistry, I think the Cardinals could sneak out of St. Louis with a tight win. Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are both veterans, and I don’t think chemistry will be a huge problem between the two. The Cardinals’ defense was able to hold the Rams for the most part, but the offense brought them down.
St. Louis is a better team than Arizona, and I’d be shocked if the Rams didn’t win at least one game against the Cardinals. I’d also be shocked if the Cardinals took more than one game from the 49ers and Seahawks. Seattle and San Francisco are both stacked, and both have defenses with the speed and depth to contain Arizona’s weapons. Arizona has a favorable situation with the Seahawks having an easy game against Tennessee before a Thursday Night Football clash with the Cardinals, and I could see the Cardinals winning that game. However, that’s about it.
I think the Cardinals will win one or two games within the division, with one coming against the Rams.
Is Carson Palmer Better Than Sam Bradford?
Bailey Deeler: In my opinion, both of these signal-callers are slightly above-average. Neither have pinpoint accuracy, but both can get the ball where it needs to be. Bradford’s new receivers will be perfect because Austin can make adjustments and Bailey has spectacular hands, meaning they can catch balls that aren’t thrown perfectly. Bradford gets the ball in the vicinity of the receiver, and his receivers will be able to adjust if the throw is a bit off-target. Palmer likes to take chances, and Fitzgerald will be able to bail him out on his risky throws. Also, Palmer should be able to accumulate more passing yards with Ryan Swope getting open with his speed.
Expect both to have great years, and expect both teams to be in contention. I think both are in good situations, and I would rather have Palmer in AZ and Bradford in St. Louis. Bradford isn’t seen as a risk-taker, and Palmer is. For Palmer, taking risks will allow Fitzgerald to make big plays. Fitzgerald can gain separation, but he isn’t fast and won’t blow by anyone. Bradford, who isn’t a risk-taker, would have to develop great chemistry with Fitzgerald to throw these passes.
Austin will gain separation, and Bradford will throw him the ball. If Austin can establish himself as a threat, he will require more attention, which will allow the sure-handed Bailey to get open. Bradford will have a great year, and I think 30-plus touchdowns is even a possibility. Palmer will throw 10-15 INTs, but he’ll also put up big yardage numbers and TD numbers. I think both are good quarterbacks and good fits, but I’d have to go with Bradford. Both had extremely similar TD numbers, but Bradford isn’t going to throw as many INTs. Expect Bradford to step up and carry the Rams to the playoffs, and expect Palmer to keep the Cardinals in contention.
Will the Cardinals Make the Playoffs?
Bailey Deeler: I don’t think the Cardinals will make the playoffs, but I think they will contend. Arizona is going to win more than five teams, and they are going to pull off some upsets. However, I think the NFC West is the hardest division in the NFL, and I think the Cardinals will finish last.
The chemistry won’t be hard to develop, but I think the young players will need time. The Cardinals are basically a new team, and it’s going to take time for them to consistently play well. I think the Cardinals will win 7-9 games in 2013 and build on that in 2013, but if the offensive line dramatically improves and Arizona’s new linebackers step up in the wake of Washington’s absence, they could even sneak into the playoffs. It’s unlikely, but the Cardinals have a chance.