Cardinals Set Up For 2017 Improvement

Posted Aug 3, 2017

It seems to be little more than random variation when a team does well in one-score games during a season. While that may be frustrating, it’s also a promising sign for the 2017 Cardinals.

NFL players, coaches and scouts spend countless hours fine-tuning their craft, intent on digging out even the tiniest of advantages.

It’s a little dispiriting, then, to think luck plays a role in close-game outcomes. However, the numbers bear that out, as it seems to be little more than random variation when a team does well in one-score games during a season.

While that may be frustrating, it’s also a promising sign for the 2017 Cardinals. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell published an article on Tuesday which detailed his five teams most likely to improve from 2016. Not surprisingly, the Cardinals were one of the highlighted clubs.

I touched on this after the season, but 2016 was certainly weird. The special teams mishaps played a big role in the regression from 2015, but the Cardinals also went 3-5-1 in one-score games, a stark departure from Arians’ 23-5 record in such scenarios previously.

The Cardinals finished with a point-differential of plus-56, fourth-best in the NFC, and Barnwell believes that figure is more predictive than a win-loss record.

Between the free-agent losses of Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson and the age of quarterback Carson Palmer, there are valid reasons to question whether the Cardinals’ Super Bowl window is still open. But the core still mostly remains, and there is plenty of star power on both sides of the ball.

Last year’s record was deceiving. The Cardinals didn’t live up to expectations, but they didn’t fall off a cliff like six fewer wins from 2015 would indicate. Although the ebb and flow of this season is unknown, a return to the playoffs in 2017 is entirely realistic.

Latest By The Numbers

  • Chandler Jones And All-Time Cardinals Seasons

    Posted Jan 12, 2018

    Chandler Jones set the Cardinals’ single-season sack record in 2017 and made the All-Pro team. That monster campaign left me wondering how it compared to other great individual seasons by Cardinals since the move to Arizona in 1988. Pro Football Reference has a formula that tries to do just that, computing a player’s approximate value each season.

  • Observations From Expected Points Added

    Posted Jan 10, 2018

    A couple years ago, Pro Football Reference unveiled a feature called “expected points added.” It’s helpful because it compares outcomes on each individual play to a historical baseline of how teams have done in similar situations. Here are some observations from the Cardinals' 2017 season.

  • Defensive Line Holds Up Without Campbell

    Posted Jan 5, 2018

    Resources are finite in the NFL, which is why the Cardinals let star defensive tackle Calais Campbell walk in free agency last season. He signed a lucrative deal with the Jaguars and had a fantastic year, finishing tied for second in the NFL in sacks with 14½. While there’s no question the Cardinals would have preferred to keep him, the defensive line ended up acquitting itself pretty well.

  • Budda Baker Earns End-of-Season Honor

    Posted Jan 3, 2018

    Budda Baker was named a second-team All-Pro by Pro Football Focus for his work on special teams this season. The rookie second-round pick finished the year with a team-best 16 tackles on special teams and recovered a kickoff in Washington.

  • Bruce Arians' Confidence Was Contagious

    Posted Jan 2, 2018

    Jared Veldheer had been in the NFL for four years before signing with the Cardinals, but had never previously played for a man like Bruce Arians. The veteran offensive tackle was reflecting on that Monday, talking about the aura of confidence that pervaded from his head coach.

Add Your Comment:

Guidelines: Please keep your comments relevant to the topic and appropriate. Abusive or combatant comments towards other fans will not be tolerated and will be removed from display on this site. Use the "Report Abuse" link to help keep the Cardinals community at its best.