Every NFL season is like a brand new car.
It looks and smells great, has minimal mileage, and makes you feel like a million bucks. Of course, after a week of driving it, the car gets dirty, has a few dents, and your kid accidentally leaves his lunch under the seat to rot. Every team has Super Bowl fever Week 1, but reality usually sets in Week 2. For some teams, the ups and downs of an NFL season bring constant hope. The NFL tugs at our heartstrings, because fortunes can change even in December. In the NFL, there are no guarantees. Uncertainty is why we love it.
Last year, when the Cardinals made the playoffs, I believed they were going to the Super Bowl. They
played one of the toughest regular season schedules in the league, and all of their losses were self-induced. However, after they beat the Packers in one of the greatest playoff games in NFL history, I wondered if destiny was on the Cardinals' side. Carson Palmer struggled throughout the game. The offensive line didn't play great. The defense gave up several big plays, and clearly missed Tyrann Mathieu. My fears were quickly realized the following week, as Arizona struggled out of the gate against Carolina, and was soundly defeated. Still, 2015 was a historic, unforgettable season.
While last year's success doesn't guarantee anything for this year, the Cardinals have everything they need to go even further, and win a Super Bowl. Palmer is back and maybe better than ever. While he made plenty of mistakes in last year's playoffs, he did win a game, something he hadn't done previously. Carson is still a better bet than most of the other quarterbacks in the NFL. Plus, the Cardinals supporting cast surrounding Palmer is second to none. Fitzgerald, Floyd, David Johnson, etc. give the Cardinals enough firepower to once again lead the league in offense. The offensive line, from center to right tackle, is the weak link. However, if D.J. Humphries continues to develop, it could be a strength by season's end. After all, every team has holes.
Defensively, the Cardinals addressed their greatest need. They now have an elite pass rusher in Chandler Jones. Plus, they drafted Robert Nkemdiche, who will give the Cardinals interior push. Tyrann Mathieu, who missed the playoffs last year, is back as the heart and soul of the defense. Patrick Peterson is still the best corner in the game, but there is a concern on the other side. Brandon Williams is young and inexperienced at the position, but once he gets game reps and confidence, we may be talking about him as a strength.
Overall, this is the most talented Cardinals team in my 15 years as the play-by-play guy. While Arizona improved its personnel from last season, many of the other NFC contenders have taken a hit. Seattle's offensive line and running backs are a question mark. Carolina lost its best cornerback, and it's hard to duplicate a near mistake-free season. Minnesota lost its quarterback to a devastating injury. Green Bay could be the biggest threat to a Cardinals Super Bowl appearance. Plus, there's always a surprise team (keep an eye on Tampa Bay, Washington, and the New York Giants).
If the Cardinals get home field advantage, needing to only win two games at University of Phoenix Stadium, I like their chances. There will be adversity. Every season has some. Are the Cardinals good enough to overcome it, and win it all? The answer is yes. Of course, in the NFL, there are no guarantees. But that's why we love it.