Bruce Arians knew from the get go that his team could beat anyone, so long as the Cardinals stopped hurting themselves. After a rocky start to his first season as Arizona’s top coach, that idealism is quickly turning into reality.
Since losing to the Seattle Seahawks over a month ago, the Cardinals have ripped off four consecutive victories, albeit, against mostly sub-par competition. The one exception to that statement, Arizona’s most recent win over the Indianapolis Colts, was convincing enough for the national media, and yours truly, to take a closer look at the Cardinals’ success of late.
The most important piece to any offense in the NFL is, quite simply, the quarterback. I may overvalue the position at times, if that’s even possible, but in Bruce Arians’ offense, the trigger man really has to be on top of his game. It’s that offense that took the Colts from being the worst team in the league to a playoff contender just a season ago, and although quarterback Carson Palmer appeared lost at times earlier in the season, the Cardinals are showing the same sort of explosiveness that pushed the Colts into the playoffs last year.
Since their last loss on October 17th, Carson Palmer has been on fire. Since losing to the Seahawks, Palmer has thrown eight touchdowns to just two interception, and his completion percentage has soared above 70% in three of his last four games.
All fancy numbers aside, turnover ratios are one of the easiest ways to judge the success of a team. If a team is giving the ball away more than they’re taking it away, they’re probably going to be in trouble. Carson Palmer, who had thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in just one game up to the Cardinals’ loss to the Seahawks, has now thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in his last four games.
At the onset of the season, it looked like the Cardinals had a great defense to complement their offense. The only missing component appeared to be at the quarterback position. Although Palmer did a better job moving the ball than Arizona’s squad from last season, he didn’t resemble the franchise passer Arizona needed until very recently. Now, the Cardinals are on a roll, but there’s no time to stop and smell the roses.
At this moment, the Cardinals are clinging to the final position in the NFC playoffs. Right behind them is their division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers who have underperformed to this point. With a playoff race this close, one slip up could be the difference between a playoff berth and an offseason of watching the playoffs, something the Cardinals have no interest in doing.
The Arizona Cardinals do in fact possess the ability to top anyone in the NFL, especially when they’re playing their best football. Unfortunately, that’s not how the Cardinals play on a regular basis. Right now, they’re in the hunt, and they’re playing their best football at the right time. They’ll have to keep that momentum up, because with the 49ers right behind them, there’s absolutely no room for error. As for a Super Bowl run, once they’re in the show, there’s no doubt they’ll be a dangerous team.