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Arizona Cardinals 2012 NFL Preview

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The Arizona Cardinals have a QB controversy – perhaps the least interesting one in the NFL – play in the worst division in the NFL, and possess one of the most exciting receiver/defensive back combo in the NFL in Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson. But I’ll start with a surprising stat – the only losses the Cardinals suffered last year after October 10th came against playoff teams (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, San Francisco and Cincinnati, and three of those came on the road). Optimism!

With the addition of a Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd (1st round pick; he’ll be the best wingman Fitz has had since Anquan Boldin left), and a healthy Ryan Williams (2011 2nd round pick who missed last year due to injury), why can’t this offense be the best in the meek NFC West?

So the season hinges upon whether or not the defense (18th in ppg, 18th in ypg) can improve, whether Arizona can avoid an 0-3 start (vs. Seattle, at New England, vs. Philly), and what happens at QB.

But first, let’s get excited about these two tremendous wins last year, both of which came in overtime (Arizona won a stunning four overtime games in the final nine weeks of the season):

Scintillating.

Now, back to boring matters, like Skelton vs. Kolb, which is almost as exciting as Jay Schroeder vs. Steve Beuerlein in 1994. It’s the sort of lifeless competition that makes you long for the days of Neil Lomax. Or Timm Rosenbach.

All indications are that Skelton will get the job. Kolb has looked skittish – downright scared if you believe Oakland’s Tommie Kelly – and like a waste of $63 million. Theoretically, either player should be fine – the line is solid, yet unspectacular, but the Beanie Wells/Williams combo, plus Fitz/Floyd should keep most defenses off balance.

Vegas has the over/under at 7 wins, and depending on your view of the division, at the minimum, the Cardinals should go 3-3 in the West, right? Everyone on the planet knows the 49ers will return to earth after last year’s somewhat lucky 13-3 record (absurd +1.7 turnovers per game), nobody fears the Rams, and the Seahawks are only to be feared at home. Getting to 9-7 might be enough to win the division.

I was all set to pencil in Arizona for a winning season, but then I looked at the tail end of the schedule. Rigorous doesn’t quite do it justice, between road games and awesome QBs:

vs. Seattle W
at New England L
vs. Philadelphia L
vs. Miami W
at St. Louis W
vs Buffalo W
at Minnesota L
vs. San Francisco W
at Green Bay L
BYE
at Atlanta L
vs. St. Louis W
at NY Jets L
at Seattle L
vs. Detroit L
vs. Chicago L
at San Francisco L

6-10 is the projection.

Nerdy number that may be of interest – the Cardinals defense gave up a very respectable 5.2 yards per play last season, good for 10th in the league. Five of the top six defenses in yards per play made the playoffs! Oh, but the Saints were 28th, Patriots 29th, and Packers 32nd at 6.3 ypp.

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