Arizona Cardinals Look to Bounce Back Into Playoff Picture
According to Pro Football Focus, Carson Palmer ranked 4th among quarterbacks in the second half of the season. As you may have guessed, the top 3 players were Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
What stood out the most about last season is how the Cardinals struggled to finish with a record of 7-8-1. As for Palmer, he threw 19 touchdowns to 9 interceptions for an average of 280 yards per game. No wonder he was thinking of retirement, which is expected after this year.
It’s also expected to see wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald hang his jersey up as well. Still a productive player, the Cardinals may only have one last run at playoff contention before scrambling to rebuild after the veterans depart from football entirely.
The main man is running back David Johnson. Palmer and Fitz believe him to be the best player in the NFL. They will ride him as their do-it-all back, but the rest of the group needs to feel the urgency and bring the A-game that they once brought on a weekly basis a few years back. That team was led by the defense, one that ranked 3rd in all of football in 2016. The glaring weakness has been the offensive line, but the receiving group is what will propel this team back to their winning ways, or not. Hopefully for them, John Brown can stay healthy, as he has been living with Palmer during the offseason to develop a better rapport.
On paper, I like this team a lot. I even picked them to reach the Super Bowl in last year’s predictions. I just thought that they were primed to get over the mental hurdle that has held them back. When the Cardinals get in do-or-die situations, that’s when things have broken down for them and I thought that coach Bruce Arians and the veteran leaders would get them through the tunnel.
This time around, I still like their roster on paper, but the NFC is pretty tough all-around and I won’t give them the benefit of the doubt. The scary thing is when a guy has that “R” word in his head, meaning retirement, which is what two of their best offensive players have lingering.
Miami Dolphins Going for Consecutive Playoff Appearances
I bring this up because the hype continues to build for DeVante Parker. First off, anything leap that the young wide out can take in his 3rd season will only add more headaches for defenses. His offensive coordinator, Clyde Christensen, believes that he is in for a “gigantic year.”
I am a big fan of wide receiver and returner Jarvis Landry. He kind of reminds me of another talented player in his division, the veteran that is Julian Edelman. Landry has beena safety blanket for Ryan Tannehill, a guy that can make plays after the catch, and he makes an impact in the return game. Landry is also a slot demon.
Here are his stats from his first 3 seasons, including back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns:
- Rookie season: 84 receptions for 758 yards and 5 touchdowns.
- Year 2: 111 receptions for 1,159 yards and 6 total touchdowns.
- Year 3: 94 receptions for 1,136 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Clearly, this is the guy I find to be their best target through the air. The talent, room for growth, and the production are all there and have been since day one. I still feel that he flies below the radar around the league, among fans and the media. Not that it’s new to him, when you consider that he played with Odell Beckham Jr. at LSU.
We all know why the Dolphins re-signed Kenny Stills this offseason. It’s hard not to like a guy that grabbed 9 touchdowns as the team’s top vertical threat averaging 17 yards per catch.
For the record, I also happen to be an Adam Gase fan that sounds like a Dolphins fan when I talk about their team. I do think that tight end Julius Thomas will perform closer to how he did with Gase in Denver, as opposed to his lost years in Jacksonville.
Rounding out the offense is Jay Ajayi, who emerged last season out of the backfield. A player that I wanted my favorite team to draft, but a knee injury dropped him down to the 5th round. This team will heavily lean on Ajayi and Landry again. The addition of Thomas and the development of Parker will give quarterback Ryan Tannehill the strongest supporting cast of his career, with the best head coach of his career.
Tannehill is a middle of the pack guy that was starting to break out in Gase’s offense, that was before he hurt his knee. Quarterbacks can bounce back from that type of injury better than other positions, especially since they get the most protection. No, I don’t find their playoff appearance last season to be a fluke.
When a new regime faces the task of developing a young team, you generally want to make one side of the ball a strength, and they have. Defensively, they might not be that far away despite ranking 30th in 2016. The Fins were getting thrown on every week, ranking 30th against the pass, but at least they hung their hat on stopping the run where they finished 13th.
Playoff picture for sure. Playoff spot, I’m for it.