At 7-1, the Arizona Cardinals have the best record in the NFL. This improbable success has led the team to the top of the NFC West, arguably the toughest division in football, as the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers came into the season as the favorites. But, there are some major reasons why you shouldn't trust this football team.
The first of these reasons is starting quarterback Carson Palmer. The 11-year veteran has started five games this season, also missing three games due to an injury. The team has gone 5-0 in the games that he has started, and he has thrown 11 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. However, Palmer's overall career record is 69-73, he hasn't played on winning teams very often, and is 0-2 lifetime in the playoffs. In fact, he has been a part of just two playoff teams in his entire career, in 2005 and in 2009, both as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. Teams that he's started for have won 10 or more games in a single season just three times.
While he is 15-6 as a starter over this year and last season for the Cardinals, this is not a quarterback that you can trust in big-game situations, because he lacks the experience and perhaps the ability to compete with the other big-named quarterbacks around the league. Having already missed three games this season, Palmer's ability to stay on the field may also be an issue moving forward, as Drew Stanton or Logan Thomas would be huge downgrades.
The second major concern is their pass defense. While their rush defense is among the best in the entire NFL, allowing just 79.6 yards per game, which ranks third, their passing defense ranks dead last, as the Cardinals have given up a league-worst 286.8 yards per game. This comes as a bit of a surprise, as Patrick Peterson, Anthonio Cromartie, and Tyrann Mathieu, along with rookie Deone Bucannon, are a talented bunch. But, they have really struggled against the pass this year.
The reason for this is likely their awful pass-rushing ability, as they have recorded just 13.0 sacks to this point, which is tied for 25th in the league. Due to this void, opposing quarterbacks have had enough time to drop back and find their targets with relative ease. Coming up, they will have to face the likes of Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson (twice), Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, and Colin Kaepernick, which are all major concerns.
Finally, Arizona's rushing attack has been one of the worst in the league, averaging just 90.5 yards per game, which ranks 28th. Andre Ellington has been decent, averaging 3.8 yards per carry and 69.9 yards per game, but he has also completely dominated the volume of carries, with 149 attempts, compared to the recently-injured Stepfan Taylor, who has registered just 18, the second-most on the team.
With this reliance on Ellington, questions about his durability are a major concern, especially since he appears on the injury report nearly every week. Mostly every contending team in the league has a more balanced rushing attack, or at least a viable backup running back. Arizona has one, and has to protect and keep him fresh moving forward, if possible. This may prove to be especially difficult if they plan on handing the ball off 25-plus times per game.
Five of the team's eight remaining games will come against NFC West opponents, so we will learn a lot more from them in the near future. But, I have never had less confidence in the team with the best record in the league as I have right now. I actually wouldn't be surprised if this team starts sliding and eventually misses the playoffs.
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