The Arizona Cardinals are a spectacular team. They hold the best record at 10-2 in the NFL for an abundance amount of reasons.
Arizona needs a win or a tie against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14 to make their first playoff berth since 2015. According to Football Outsiders, the Cardinals have a 95% chance to win the NFC West.
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The Cardinals are also making a push to capture the first seed and to grab home-field advantage plus a bye week.
It’s definitely hard to find problems relating to the Cards. But despite all the positives with the Cardinals, there’s still some areas that could be exploited in their eventual playoff run.
Analyst Dives Into ‘Innocence’ of Cardinals
On the December 6 episode of Heavy Presents: I’m Just Saying, Heavy’s panel of NFL analysts were asked one question: What could hold the Cardinals back in the playoffs?
“Let’s go philosophical boys,” said Esden Jr. “Their innocence is what will hold them back. It’s their inexperience. There’s all these wow players all over the team. You look at the record, you look at the playmakers, Kyler’s back, Hopkins’ back. But there are two ways not having playoff experience can help or hurt you. When you go to the playoffs with no experience, you can be invincible. It’s that kid that doesn’t know pain yet. Maybe that happens and the Cardinals go on a magical run. But I’m going to lean towards the latter. They’re going to be in the, ‘oooh, ahhhh, wow we’re in the playoffs, this is cool.’ And then they’re going to be smacked by someone that’s been there, done that. Green Bay?”
Esden Jr. is right that the Cardinals will have eventual first-time playoff appearances for quarterback Kyler Murray, coach Kliff Kingsbury and numerous other players.
I offered a rebuttal to Esden Jr.’s argument.
I think they very well could be the Phoenix Suns of the NFL. People were probably saying before the playoffs, ‘no experience with Devin Booker, Ayton’s too young.’ But guess what, they got Chris Paul into the mix and went to the NBA Finals. The Cardinals got Rodney Hudson, A.J. Green, James Conner. They’ve got experience at the same time in terms of veterans.
In-season acquisition tight end Zach Ertz wasn’t even mentioned, who won a Super Bowl with the Eagles. But when it comes to experience, teams like the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers are among those who beat the Cardinals in that department.
Biggest Cardinals Issue Brought Up
“They are actually the worst in the NFC West at this stat: run defense. I think that, especially, heading into the playoffs, could put a dent for their chances. Especially if Arizona faces Dallas and Ezekiel Elliot. Perhaps they get Tampa Bay with Leonard Fournette and Green Bay with Aaron Jones.”
While the the Cardinals defense is among the best in allowed points per game and turnovers, Reyna makes a great point. The Bears had their way of running the football against the Cards on December 5. David Montgomery had 90 yards on 21 carries for a touchdown and also had 51 receiving yards out of the backfield.
“There were a couple of times it was frustrating,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said, “because, in our minds, they shouldn’t have scored.”
Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey and now Montgomery have had their way against the Cards. All have accounted for at least 140 yards in all-purpose yards.
But overall, the Cardinals defense has been consistent as possible. The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin ranks the Cardinals ninth in preventing new first downs on a given series.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will still have to get the rushing defense straightened out before the playoffs. They’ll definitely have another trial run, as they face elusive Colts running back Jonathon Taylor in Week 16.