GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23: Wide receiver Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the football on a 95 touchdown reception against the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter of the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Steelers defeated the Cardinals 32-20. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
We're back for another day of NFC West review, this time focusing in on the third place Arizona Cardinals. Yesterday took a look at the Seattle Seahawks. Aside from the 49ers, the NFC West has been a bit of a mess thus far. Considering the 49ers face the NFC West in five of their final seven games in 2011, it's useful to know where those three teams have come from and where they appear to be going.
The Arizona Cardinals are a team that had some high hopes heading into 2011. They made a variety of moves in the offseason, but one stands out for all the see. They traded away Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second round pick to acquire Eagles QB Kevin Kolb. They then turned around and signed Kolb to a monster five year contract. It's safe to say that is where they were building their future.
Seven games into the season, the future has not been particularly bright. Kolb has had some very solid moments, but he's had more less than stellar moments. He could still turn this thing around over the course of his contract, but for now, things are not looking particularly rosy.I do think there is some cause for cheer in Arizona, although even that has its negative issues. The Cardinals drafted running back Ryan Williams and dealt away veteran Tim Hightower. Unfortunately Williams was lost for the season due to injury. The good news in all this is that when healthy, Beanie Wells has looked quite solid carrying the load. The negative to that is that Wells has struggled to stay healthy.
On defense the Cardinals have been bad against the run and abysmal against the pass. They drafted Patrick Peterson to be a lockdown corner for them and he is having some rookie struggles. The entire secondary is a mess right now in pass coverage. In last week's game Steelers game, Pittsburgh elected to skip the run for the most part and just focus on picking apart Arizona's secondary. It is going to be a common theme. So much so that I would generally recommend starting receivers and quarterbacks against the Cardinals week in and week out in fantasy football.
The Cardinals lone win to date came against the Carolina Panthers on opening day. They defeated the Fightin Cam Newtons 28-21 but had to use a fourth quarter rally to withstand Newton's monster day. They followed that up with three straight losses by a combined eight points. They were tough losses, but still close. They then followed that up with a pair of losses by a combined 36 points. Not so close.
As the Cardinal look ahead to the rest of their schedule, they could be in line for a tough finish:
Week 8 - @ Baltimore
Week 9 - vs. St. Louis
Week 10 - @ Philadelphia
Week 11 - @ San Francisco
Week 12 - @ St. Louis
Week 13 - vs. Dallas
Week 14 - vs. San Francisco
Week 15 - vs. Cleveland
Week 16 - @ Cincinnati
Week 17 - vs. Seattle
At this point, Football Outsiders lists their playoff odds at 0.1%. I'd imagine that is not a good thing. Instead of contending for a playoff spot, the Cardinals find themselves in the thick of the number one draft pick sweepstakes. They have enough holes that they could figure out a whole host of options for that pick. For now though, it will be a high draft pick and not a playoff date.
The Arizona Cardinals find themselves in a tough position moving forward. They have several pieces in place, but they have a lot of development in front of them. Are they anywhere near becoming a threat in the immediate future? Any team can make a drastic turnaround in a short amount of time. The question is how quickly can the Cardinals right the ship?