Predictions before seasons start are a timeless and utterly foolish tradition that we absolutely support and will continue here. We are proud to share our guesses from the SB Nation Arizona staff for the Arizona Cardinals 2011 NFL season. Optimism is cautiously present along with an predictable mix of negativity.
Vegas has set the over/under for wins for the Cardinals at 6 1/2 and Sports Illustrated's Peter King predicts 7-9. No where have we found a prediction for more than 10 wins or less than five. That's a pretty wide spread which is understandable for a team with so many unknowns.
In the end, the predictions are more about the predictor than the team. Take what you will from our staff's annual guessing game.
The Cardinals will be a better team this season than last, simply because of QB Kevin Kolb. He'll play decently at least, but the team will have to get some production from the running game and find someone else to make catches when teams try to take Larry Fitzgerald out of the game week after week.
The biggest questions will be found on defense. Too many variables and unknowns on that side of the ball. The NFC West will be won with a 9-7 record at best, so the Cards should be in the hunt especially with a favorable schedule down the stretch in December/January but road wins will be hard to come by once again.
Cardinals will finish 7-9 and second in the NFC West.
Coming off a 5-11 season, the Cardinals have a couple major things working in their favor - an easy schedule and the NFC West. With those variables in their favor and a quarterback not named Derek Anderson or Max Hall the Cards should be an improved team in 2011. Just how improved will depend on newly minted starting quarterback Kevin Kolb.
The fifth-year QB probably isn't going to be the type of guy he was when he was twice named NFC Player of the Week but if he's a reasonable facsimile the Cardinals will be in the playoff hunt the entire season. There's more talent on the roster and lots of reasons for optimism but the lockout probably slowed progress to the point where the Cardinals are one year away.
Cardinals will finish 7-9 and finish 2nd in the NFC West.
The addition of Kevin Kolb will not be able to offset what is perhaps the worst offensive line in the NFL. While that will help to improve last season's anemic offense, ultimately the lack of success up front will undo any potential the unit may have. Meanwhile, a defense with one too many holes won't be able to withstand the rigors of a schedule that features the tough AFC North and NFC East. Some holes have been plugged, but the ship is still taking on water.
Cardinals will finish 6-10, 2nd in the NFC West behind St. Louis.
The Cardinals' offseason move to bring in Kevin Kolb, combined with their favorable schedule key their return to the playoffs.
St. Louis suffers early because of a brutal schedule at the start of the year and never can catch up, while the 49ers and Seahawks play as well as you can expect them to with Alex Smith and Tarvaris Jackson as their starting quarterbacks.
Arizona plays well within the division, going 4-2, wins the games they are expected to (Carolina, Washington, Cincinnati) and pulls off solid home wins against the Giants and Cowboys. They also sneak away from Minnesota with a victory.
Kolb is above average, Larry Fitzgerald is incredible and Beanie Wells puts together a very good offensive season, while the defense experiences an up-and-down year learning Ray Horton's new schemes.
The Cardinals will finish 10-6 and win the NFC West.
Kevin Kolb, Patrick Peterson: these two could be the biggest indicators for how the Cardinals perform in 2011. One will attempt to lead the Cards' offense and the other will attempt to fulfill his potential at (arguably) the Cards' most vulnerable position: cornerback.
If this duo can hold its own and make plays happen, the Cardinals will return to the form of a few years ago and should be on pace for 9 to 10 wins. I think that both deliver and Arizona fans forget about 2010's atrocious 5-11 record.
Cardinals will finish 9-7 and win the NFC West.
We only have to look at the Arizona Diamondbacks to know how possible it is for a team to surprise the "experts". In fact, surprises are absolutely expected, but the trick is getting the "surprise team" right before the season starts.
What this Cardinals club has going for it is confidence and hunger. They are seeking redemption for last season's disaster and have the character and heart to deliver.
The overall talent might indicate a six or seven win team, but the combination of an easy schedule and exceptional chemistry is worth a lot.
Cardinals will finish 10-6 and win the NFC West.