NFL Team Update: Arizona Cardinals Grounded Like Flightless Birds

Arizona Cardinals’ fans had high hopes that a bounce back was in store for the 2017-2018 NFL Season. The Cardinals reached the NFC Championship in the 2015-2016 season. Why wouldn’t they feel that they could bounce after a 2016-2017 NFL Season where Arizona went 7 and 9. Has Arizona done that? Or, are the Cardinals once again one of the worst teams in the NFC West Division?

Arizona Cardinals 2017 Update

As most of you know already, Arizona has failed at bouncing back from their terrible 2016-2017. The word failure is relative.  See below for questions I asked in my 2017 Arizona Cardinals Update. Then, check out how I believe the Cardinals season is really going.

Too Much David Johnson in 2016?

Answer: Not enough David Johnson in 2017.

Arizona running back David Johnson was the first player taken in almost every single season-long fantasy football league. DJ was expected to provide an NFL MVP performance this season. He may have if given the chance.

DJ didn’t make it to Week 2. He suffered a devastating injury in NFL Week 1. Johnson’s required surgery on his wrist. Latest word is that Johnson could return at the end of November. His injury wasn’t just a big blow to fantasy football fans, it was a huge blow to the Arizona Cardinals organization.

Last season, DJ was, easily, the Cardinals’ top offensive weapon. He accounted for 1,239 rushing yards along with 16 rushing TDs. He also caught 80 passes for 879 yards. DJ caught 4 TD passes. His performance last season put him into the upper echelon of running backs in the NFL.

Ever since Johnson’s injury, the Cardinals have scrambled to find a way to make up for his lost production. So far, Zona hasn’t come close. Future hall of fame running back Adrian Peterson has shown flashes of his former greatness. In Week 9 versus the San Francisco 49’ers, Peterson rushed for 159 yards on 37 carries.

In Week 10, however, AP only rushed for 29 yards on 21 carries. Not only that, but AP can’t catch the football out of the backfield the way David Johnson can. That means, Peterson simply doesn’t have the same skill set that Johnson has.

Has Arizona’s Defense Bounced Back?

Answer: Not really.

In some categories, last season’s Arizona Cardinals’ defense was great. The Cardinals ranked 2nd in the NFL in total yards allowed during the season. Zona gave up 4,883 total combined yards. Houston ranked 1st when giving up 4,821 total yards. The Cardinals ranked 2nd in yards per game as well.

The Houston Texans allowed 301.3 total yards per game. Arizona allowed 305.2 yards per game. In the 2016 NFL Season, the Cardinals ranked 9th in rush yards per game. Arizona allowed 1,518 total rushing yards. That translates to 94.9 rushing yards per.

So far, looks great, right? Not so fast. The Arizona Cardinals’ defense allowed 22.6 points per game last season. That ranked 14th in the league. What does that mean? 13 other teams were ahead of the Arizona Cardinals in points allowed last season:  the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, and Pittsburgh Steelers ranked 13th to 10th. Baltimore, Cincinnati, KC, Minnesota, Dallas, Denver, and the New York Giants ranked 9th through 2nd in points allowed per game.

Who was the top team in the NFL on defense in the points allowed per game category? Eventual Super Bowl winning New England. The Patriots allowed only 15.6 points per game during the regular season.

If Arizona’s defense was to improve, it had to allow less than 22.6 points per game. That was the threshold for the Zona defense to be better this season than it was last season. Has Arizona stopped teams from scoring more points this season?

Nope. It’s not even close. The Arizona defense allows a ridiculous 24.8 points per game. That ranks 27th in the NFL as of Week 11. Arizona’s pass defense gives up over 245 yards per game. The rushing defense is decent. However, the defensive line hasn’t produced enough pressure to counter whatever advantage Zona gets from cornerback Patrick Peterson shutting down an opponent’s best wide receiver.

Arizona Cardinals’ Offense Overall

The Arizona Cardinals’ offense overall hasn’t been all that great. First, the loss of David Johnson has had a huge effect on the rushing attack. The Cardinals only average 71.7 rushing yards per game. Because Adrian Peterson has trouble catching the football out of the backfield, Cardinals’ opponents can simply wait for AP to go left, right, or up the middle. They can pretty much leave him on the outside to catch the football before closing in for the tackle.

Losing Carson Palmer

Second, Arizona lost starting QB Carson Palmer for the rest of the season. Just to be clear, though, the last game Palmer played was in NFL Week 7. The Cardinals had their bye this season in NFL Week 8. What it means is that backup Drew Stanton has only had a couple of weeks, Week 9 and Week 10, to add disaster to the Cardinals’ passing attack.

The problem with the attack, like everything on Arizona’s offense stems from the lack of David Johnson. Carson Palmer, before he got injured, averaged over 260 passing yards per game. But, the Cards averaged less than 18 points per game.

Before the injury, Carson Palmer was having a horrific season. He had thrown only 9 TD passes to 7 interceptions. He had completed only 61.4% of his passes. His QB rating was a terrible 84.4. Palmer in no way resembled the player that broke into the NFL in the 2003-2004 season. He didn’t seem to have it.

This is true even though the Cardinals still boast one of the absolute top wide receiver corps in the league. Led by the fantastic Larry Fitzgerald, it’s tough to stop any Arizona WR one-on-one. The fact is, although it’s hard to believe, Arizona’s offense might perform better with Drew Stanton at QB instead of Carson Palmer.

Palmer, like so many other aging quarterbacks, relies heavily on his past skills. He used to be able to thread the needle. He can’t do that anymore. Stanton knows he can’t thread the needle.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Carson Palmer. I just believe his skills have deteriorated. It happens to every professional athlete as they grow older.

Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl LII Odds

During the 2017 NFL Preseason, Arizona’s odds were at a respectable 33 to 1. 33 to 1 odds aren’t bad because only 2 teams, Green Bay and New England, offered odds below double-digits. Arizona’s odds aren’t 33 to 1 any more. The current odds on the Arizona Cardinals are at 10,000 to 1. That’s how much faith odds makers have on Zona to win Super Bowl LII.

Are 10,000 to 1 fair odds on the Arizona Cardinals? Sure, they are. Arizona’s 4 and 5 after NFL Week 10. Why wouldn’t they be fair odds? After all, 10,000 to 1 pretty much says the Cardinals chances of making the playoffs are, well, around 10,000 to 1.

If you think AZ even makes the playoffs, why not jump on them to win it all the way. I’m not going to, but if you want to give it a shot, go for it.

Bottom Line on the 2017 Arizona Cardinals

The bottom line on the 2017 Arizona Cardinals is that their season drastically changed in Week 1 when running back David Johnson went down with the wrist injury. Arizona felt that they could replace DJ’s production with a mix of a banger running back like Chris Johnson, whom they resigned before trading for Adrian Peterson, and pass-catching RB Andre Ellington.

That didn’t work because David Johnson’s ability to catch the football out of the backfield is what makes him such a dangerous running back. DJ’s a multiple-faceted RB. Defense know that when AP is in the backfield he’s either going to run-block, or he’s going to rush the football.

QB Drew Stanton can help because he doesn’t take chances with the football the way that Carson Palmer did. It won’t be enough, though. Arizona’s biggest issue is that their defense can’t stop anyone. That’s the biggest problem the Cardinals face the rest of the way this season.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson

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