How big of a step back will Arizona take in 2010? Al Dannity says for all the losses, Arizona remains a playoff contender.
Off-season changes It’s been a horrible off-season for the Cardinals. Kurt Warner finally retired, leaving unproven Matt Leinart to take over as quarterback. This immediately reduces the Cardinals ability to air it out as Leinart simply lacks the arm strength and versatility of Warner. If he had been left with a solid safety valve to complement All-everything receiver Larry Fitzgerald then Leinart might have been in fine shape. Unfortunately Anquan Boldin is also gone, depriving Arizona of its best possession receiver.
On defense it gets worse with linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Antrel Rolle both exiting a Cardinals’ defense that was already sorely lacking playmakers. Kerry Rhodes will fit in nicely in the less challenging NFC West but he remains a significant downgrade from Rolle.
Mark your calendar Divisional play will be crucial to NFL betting in the NFC West. Arizona’s match-ups with Seattle, in weeks 7 and 10, leap of the schedule. Two games against a rival within four weeks can make or break a team. Pete Carroll’s knows a lot about Matt Leinart so Russ Grimm will need to tailor the offense to give the Seattle coach something different to think about.
San Francisco promises to be a serious contender in the division this year. Arizona hosts the 49ers in week 12 while the regular season ends with a mouth-watering rematch in San Francisco in week 17.
The verdict It all comes down to Matt Leinart. If the former Heisman trophy winner can step up and be a leader then Arizona could go 9-7 and win the NFC West. In order for this to happen they need to win at least 3 of the 4 games with Seattle and San Francisco. It’s more likely however that this will be a rebuilding year for the Cardinals. Arizona’s decision to draft players who need time to develop and lack of major free-agent signings indicates as much.
A similar start to Aaron Rodgers’ first season in Green Bay is likely, with Leinart showing flashes of brilliance but making just enough mistakes to cost the Cardinals some games. The USC standout won’t be helped by the lack of strength on defense. Even with Dansby and Rolle, this Cardinals outfit was prone to giving up some huge plays. I like the Cardinals to have a down year in 2010 but to finish in shape to come back stronger in 2011. Bet against Arizona making it a threepeat in the NFC West.