Arizona Cardinals 2009 Season Preview
by Badger of Predictem.com
2008 Record 9-7 (9-7 ATS)
NFC West Division Champions
Lost in Super Bowl 43 to Pittsburgh Steelers
Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium
Head Coach: Ken Whisenhunt (3rd Season 20-16)
Current 2009-2010 Super Bowl Odds 26-to-1
Training Camp Site: Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Ariz.
The Arizona Cardinals made an inspired playoff run in 2008 as the
NFCs representative in Super Bowl 43, but they lost to the Steelers
falling one game short of the prize. By reaching the final Sunday the
Cardinals have raised the bar and the level of expectations out in
the desert for the upcoming 2009 campaign.
But lets not forget that last years team struggled to just a 9-7
season, winning the NFC West out of attrition because of their high-
powered offense. The Cards only won two of their last six games in
08, and the defense ended ranked 28th in the NFL in points allowed,
so they need to improve some weaknesses before they can just cash in
the ticket as the NFC West favorites and take their shot at another
long playoff run.
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Whos In/Whos Out
After some posturing from both sides, quarterback Kurt Warner and the
Cardinals finally agreed to a new two-year contract in March. The
also re-signed a couple of other potential free agents including
starting safety Adrian Wilson, third-string QB Brian St. Pierre and
defensive lineman Bertrand Berry.
The Cards also made sure to keep linebacker/end Karlos Dansby by
designating him as their franchise player back in February.
After watching corner Bryant McFadden have a very good game against
their own tri-headed receiving core in last years Super Bowl as a
Steeler, the Cards went out and signed the free agent away from
Pittsburgh during the winter to start opposite Dominique Rodgers-
Besides the loss of part-time defensive end Antonio Smith (3.5 sacks
in 08) to Houston, the Cards made the most noise of their offseason
by who the released, namely running backs Edgerrin James and J.J.
Arrington, than by who they brought into the fold.
Draft Class 2009
The Cardinals let both James and Arrington go because they picked
their replacement, running back Chris Wells of Ohio State, with the
31st pick of the draft. Wells will get the carries both of those
backs got and then some opposite Tim Hightower, although the injury-
prone back must get through training camp first and stay on the field
for that to happen.
After Wells, the Cardinals probably wont have any other impact
rookies from the draft. Second-round pick DE Cody Brown of UConn
might make the team because of his pass rush, and 5th-round offensive
tackle Herman Johnson and 7th-round running back LaRod Stephens-
Howling could be judgment calls when it comes time for the final cuts.
The Arizona Cardinals were all over the top of the rankings on
offense in 08, finishing 1st in the NFL in points scored per game
(29.5), 2nd in total yards (373.2 ypg) and 3rd in passing yards per
game (281.8 ypg).
Warner revived his career to MVP-status once again, throwing for over
4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions. With Warner
chuckin-and duckin the Cards became just the second team in NFL
history to have three different receivers all get over 70 receptions
and 1,000 yards (the Redskins Fun Bunch of the 80s was the first).
Warner did have hip surgery in the offseason and is still moving with
a little limp, but hes on a timetable for full-go come September.
Larry Fitzgerald (96 for 1,431 yds., 12 TD), Anquan Boldin (89 for
1,038, 11 TD) and Steve Breaston (77 for 1,006, 3 TD) are obviously
three very dangerous weapons on the outside and in the slot, even if
Boldin claims he wont be a distraction this season despite his
continued displeasure over his contract.
The one weakness on offense is the running game, which is why Wells
was drafted to tag-team with Hightower (399 yds., 10 TD) and try and
keep defenses honest and grind out the clock when playing with the
lead. Mike Gandy and Levi Brown have developed into to solid bookend
tackles to lead the Cards offensive line.
As a whole, the Cards defense did not play all that bad last season
(19th in yards allowed 331.5 ypg). They just gave up a lot of
points, which is something they were taken to task for when the
playoffs began last year.
By labeling Dansby (4 sacks) as the franchise player and bringing
back defensive end Berry (5 sacks), the Cards maintained their pass-
rush off the edge. With Darnell Dockett and Bryan Robinson inside,
the defensive line should be able to stop the run at the point of
The strength of the Cards could be their secondary, namely safeties
Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle. Wilson is good at creeping into the
box to help linebackers Chike Okeafor and Gerald Hayes against the
run, while Rolle is the former corner now turned loose to roam free
in the passing game.
With Rodger-Cromartie and McFadden at corner, Rolle and Wilson will
be allowed more opportunities to freelance and give the secondary as
a whole more playmaking ability than the unit that finished last year
ranked 22nd versus the pass (221.3 ypg).
The Cardinals special teams units are what youd expect from a
playoff-caliber team, consistent and dependable.
Kicker Neil Rackers was a solid pro in 2008, ending the year 25-of-28
on field goal attempts with a long of 54. Ben Graham, the former
Australian Rules players who has a big leg (42.0 ave) with hang-time
issues (32.0 net), was re-signed to be the Cards punter again in 09.
Breaston split time as the kickoff returner last season with
Arrington, so the job should be his to lose. He averaged 20.2 yards
per kickoff return (33) last season, with a 7.2 yard average on punt returns in 08.
2009 Arizona Cardinals Schedule
Sept. 13 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Sept. 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sept. 27 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Oct. 4 Bye
Oct. 11 HOUSTON TEXANS
Oct. 18 at Seattle Seahawks
Oct. 25 at New York Giants
Nov. 1 CAROLINA PANTHERS
Nov. 8 at Chicago Bears
Nov. 15 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Nov. 22 at S. Louis Rams
Nov. 29 at Tennessee Titans
Dec. 6 MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Dec. 14 at San Francisco 49ers
Dec. 20 at Detroit Lions
Dec. 27 ST. LOUIS RAMS
Jan. 3 GREEN BAY PACKERS
Betting Odds and Projections
The Arizona Cardinals were not a very good team to wager on if all
you did was pick a side, since the Cards ended 08 with a 9-7 ATS
record. But if you hitched your bankroll to the Cards high-powered
offense and took the over consistently, they rewarded you with a
solid 11-5 tally.
Currently listed at 26-to-1 to win Super Bowl 44 at Bovada.
Cards will once again be forced to come out of the pack. They are
virtually a lock to win the NFC West again unless they fall victim to
injury, so that makes their chances at making the postseason even
stronger, which adds value to their 26-to-1 odds.
The Cardinals face the NFC North in intra-division competition this
season, which means a few tougher non-division games versus
Minnesota, Green Bay and Chicago. But two of those three are at home,
where the Cards were 6-2 last year, so they should be able to survive
to hold off the 49ers and Seahawks in the division. I say survive and
hold off because the Cards also face tough games against Tennessee,
Carolina, Indianapolis and the New York Giants, so 9-7 may have to
suffice again this season.