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ASA's NFL Futures Pick
by ASA - 08/25/2005
Arizona Cardinals / Over 7.5 Wins
The Arizona Cardinals head into this season with a potentially explosive offense and a solid defense thanks to some key off season acquisitions and coaching moves. Located in one of the weaker division in football which includes the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and the St. Louis Rams, the Arizona Cardinals look to be atop the standings in their division come the end of the year.
Second year coach Dennis Green will better his 6 & 10 record last year by drastically improving his offense and keeping his defense at the same level it played at a year ago. Last season Arizona was ranked 12th overall in the NFL on defense, but their offense stunk and was ranked 27th. Green and the Cardinals made a big upgrade offensively with the hiring of new offensive coordinator Keith Rowen. Rowen comes to Arizona after spending the past six seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs as the tight ends coach. Rowen brings a new offense that features a balanced running and passing attack which should thrive in the desert with the talent he has to work with offensively.
The Two main off season acquisitions that will help Rowens offense immediately are free agent quarterback Kurt Warner and rookie running back J.J. Arrington from Cal. J.J. Arrington comes to the Cardinals as a very successful college running back that rushed for over 2,000 yards as a First- Team All-American selection. He is a very strong running back that shows great instincts and should fit right into the Cardinals new system under Rowen. Free agent QB Kurt Warner, the 1999 and 2001 NFL MVP, is excited about throwing to three very talented receivers much like he had in St Louis when he threw over 35 touchdown passes in each of his two MVP seasons with the Rams.
The three headed receiving monster in Arizona includes the very talented second year playmaker Larry Fitzgerald, downfield threat Anquan Boldin, and the young Bryant Johnson. These young receivers along with the experience of Kurt Warner are the core of a very dynamic offense that Green believes is the nucleus of a great offense for many years to come. Itâ€™s early and only the preseason but so far Dennis Green has to be pleased with the play of Warner. In a little more than a quarter in the preseason opener versus the Cowboys, Warner completed 14 of 19 for 151 yards and a touchdown. His quarterback rating was 114.1. Warner then had a second straight good outing against the Chiefs as he hit 12 of 23 passes for 99 yards. If the preseason is a sign of things to come during the regular season then Warner should have a great year with the Cardinals.
The defense in Arizona should be solid again in 2005-06. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast had his defense playing like a playoff team in 2004 and he believes that this unit will only be stronger and should improve upon their statistics from a year ago. A key addition to the Cardinals defense is rookie Antrel Rolle a defensive back from Miami that was drafted 8th overall. Rolle has great speed and closing ability which will help the Cardinals secondary and defense as a whole.
When betting total wins for a season the team schedule has a lot to do with the handicapping process. Looking at the Cardinals schedule this season we see that their non divisional schedule is relatively easy. Arizona will play at the Giants, Dallas, Detroit, and Houston none of which had a winning season in 2004. To add to that they also host a Redskin team that went 6-10 in 2004. When you take a look at the rest of the NFC West you certainly shouldnâ€™t be intimidated by anyone if youâ€™re the Cardinals. We feel the Rams are not going to be as good this year as theyâ€™ve been in the past, the Seahawks have talent but are certainly beatable and the 49ers will be the worst team in the league.
Last year the Cards had two very winnable games slip away or their record could have been 8 & 8 instead of 6 & 10. Two games that Arizona should have definitely won last year came against division foe San Francisco. Both of these games were identical 28-31 losses, one of which took overtime. Arizona also lost two other games a year ago by a field goal or less which could obviously have gone the other way and resulted in two more wins for the Cards. We like the direction this team is heading in and we wonâ€™t be stunned when Arizona wins the NFC West this year and in the process eclipses the 7.5 win total.