Team MVP: Adrian Wilson, S
Break-Out Player: Tim Hightower, RB
Biggest Disappointment: Losing five games by a field goal or less.
Fantasy Stud: Larry Fitzgerald, WR
Offensive Outlook: The staple of this team. The football should cross the goal line as much if not more than 2007. The biggest question will be how coach Ken Whisenhunt decides to utilize quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner. If Leinart struggles, will he have a quick hook or will he have some patience before bringing Warner into the game? Will he utilize the two quarterback system? My best guess is that he will end up using both quarterbacks in the same game several times and only going to one full time should one fail to consistently produce. The receiver core will be strong. Receiver Bryant Johnson left Arizona to go play for the San Francisco 49ers. Enter third round draft pick, Receiver Early Doucet. Also competing for the third spot will be Steve Breaston. The biggest question amongst the receivers is whether Anquan Boldin can play without his contract situation being a distraction. As for the running backs, Edgerrin James is 30 now, but still can run strong. The question is, can he improve on his yards per run average, which is below 4 yards per game since he came to Arizona in 2006. Tim Hightower, from Richmond, looks to not only be the offensive breakout player, but the team's breakout player. There has been some buzz surrounding his ability to cut and his break away speed. Of course the running game is only as good as your offensive line. There was improvement on the line in 2007 and looks towards linemen Duece Lutui and Mike Gandy to lead the way in providing more consistent open holes for the backs. Tight end is one position that is a little thin right now. Leonard Pope is coming off an injury season. Jerame Tuman is currently his backup. The Cardinals recent addition of Arizona State alum Brent Miller should help. Overall, the Cardinals should score a few more points, however there really hasn't been much change amongst the skill positions. Look for Cardinals to score somewhere between 325-350 points.
Defensive Diagnosis: Several questions abound with the Cardinals defense. They are young. However they are fast. Starting with the defensive line, the biggest questions here are the health of Defensive End Bertrand Berry and the happiness of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Dockett also needs to address his silly personal foul penalties. The Cardinals probably win at least two more games without his penalties last season, so keeping his head focused in the game is of the utmost importance. It certainly would be nice to see him finally finish a complete season. He's not getting any younger though, so don't go placing any bets in Las Vegas on him to finish the season healthy. Defensive end Chike Okeafor should have a strong season. The linebacker core, lead by Karlos Dansby and Gerald Hayes, should also provide results towards the positive end of the plus-minus category. The most interesting aspect of this defense is the secondary. Adrian Wilson should end up being the team's MVP, again as long as he stays healthy. Recognize a theme here? The health of the Cardinals players will go a long way in determining how much they win. The Cardinals are unfortunately not the type of team that is extremely deep, especially on the defensive side of the ball, thus injuries to starters are considered more dire for the Cardinals than say on a defense in New England. Antrel Rolle moves positions, over to safety. That should take advantage of his speed. I look for the Cardinals to be at least a plus 10 in the plus-minus category. I also look to the defense to provide 5-7 touchdowns.
"Red Letter" Game: Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday November 27 (Thanksgiving). Not only is this game 12 and on the road, it's on national television, on Thanksgiving. This is the second opportunity in three weeks for the Cardinals to play in front of the entire nation. The first being the Monday night game on Nov 10th against the 49ers. This could be the game the Cardinals decide if they are contenders or pretenders.
Projected Record/Outlook: For the 3rd season in a row, I predict 10-6. Ultimately, on paper they should finish about 12-4. Unfortunately they don't play on paper. They will win two games they shouldn't (Philly on the road, Minnesota at home), and will lose two games they should have won (one against the 49ers, and the other against the Jets). They should sweep the AFC teams at home (Miami and Buffalo). They will play it close with the Cowchips from Dallas and the NY Giants since both are at home. They probably split those games. They also lose in Washington and Carolina. I see them sweeping Seattle and St. Louis. New England will be a waste of time, tag them with a loss now. Can they get it done and finish 10-6? Time will tell.
Seattle Seahawks: They've re-tooled their running game. In with Julius Jones, out with Shaun Alexander. Coach Mike Holmgren is taking the reins of the team for his last season. I could go on and on why this team will suck in 2008. Until the Cardinals beat them in Seattle though, I can't be too rough on them. I will bask in glory though when the Presidential election takes place in November and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's sister-in-law, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, makes some ridiculous remark on The View, and sends the entire Hasselbeck clan into hiding. Seneca Wallace has to take over at QB, which is about as exciting a proposition as watching grass grow. Getting old and finishing 8-8.
St. Louis Rams: Do they still have a team? I mean, they got desperate for QB help. They went out and got 56 year old Trent Green. Didn't his head get chopped off by a tomahawk chop in Kansas City a couple of seasons ago? This team lost 48-19 in its 2007 season finale to the Cardinals. If you are allowing the Cardinals score 48 points and allow them to beat you by 29, well, I hear the Big Ten Conference is still searching for it's 12th football team. Wouldn't it make that another Big 12? They already have 11, why isn't it the Big 11? Who cares? I've spent more time caring about the Rams in the past five minutes than their fans have about them in the past two seasons. The Rams are lucky to win 5. They go 5-11.
San Francisco 49ers: The media continues to believe this team is a sleeper and can make a run at the playoffs. Playoffs? Are you crazy? Playoffs? They, like the Cardinals, will probably win a couple games they shouldn't and will lose a few they should win. However, this team has a harder time scoring than a paying john in a brothel. Alex Smith is still the quarterback. Their wide receiver core carries an AARP card carrier (Isaac Bruce), a guy who can only catch one out of every five passes (Bryant Johnson), and a Denver Bronco reject from the Jake Plummer days (Ashley Lelie). I get more excited about House of Representatives floor coverage on C-SPAN. Frank Gore really should look for a better home. He is a good player on a below average team. The team is still the best in the bay area though, which is not saying much at all. They go 6-10 at best.
- Scott Allen