2015 Record: 13-3-0
Head Coach: Bruce Arians
New Faces for 2016 - DL Chandler Jones, DB Tyvon Branch, OL Evan Mathis
OFFENSE: Carson Palmer is back at quarterback for the team after a great 2015 season. The 14-year veteran passed for 4,671 yards with 35 touchdowns and just eleven interceptions. Drew Stanton will back up when needed.
The running game has a pair of Johnson's as in Chris Johnson (814 rush yards, 4.2 ypc average and three TD) and David Johnson, who went for 581 yards when Chris was injured. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry and scored eight times in addition to 36 receptions for 457 yards and four more touchdowns.
The receivers are led by Larry Fitzgerald, who enjoyed another stellar season, making 109 catches for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns. John Brown had 65 receptions for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns. Michael Floyd (52, 849, six TD) completes the trio. Darren Fells (21, 311, three TD) and Jermaine Gresham (18, 223, one TD) are the tight ends.
DEFENSE: The Cardinals run the 3-4 defense and have Rodney Gunter at the nose spot with either Chandler Jones (also a linebacker) or Frostee Rucker at the tackle position. Calais Campbell (five QB sacks) is the other defensive tackle. Rookie Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss) will be in the trenches as well.
At linebacker is Markus Golden (four sacks) and Kareem Martin on the outside, with Jones playing OLB as well. Chandler Jones is a pass rusher extraordinaire, getting 12 1/2 sacks a year ago with the New England Patriots.
The inside backers are Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter. Alex Okafor, Gabe Martin and Quayshawn Nealy will fill in when needed.
The defensive backs are Patrick Peterson (two interceptions) and Tyvon Branch and/or rookie Brandon Williams (Texas A & M). The safeties are Tony Jefferson (two INT) and Tyrann Mathieu, who led the team with five picks, one for a touchdown. Justin Bethel (two picks) is also in the mix.
OUTLOOK: The Cardinals were flying high a year ago until they got blasted in the NFC Championship Game. That bitter taste should serve as extra motivation for them entering the 2016 season.
The offense is potent, scoring 30-plus points eight times last season, including 40-plus points three times. Palmer and his high flying trio of wide receivers are among the best in pro football. The running game complements the air attack for the second highest scoring team (30.6 per game) in the NFL last year. No reason to feel they can't do the same this season.
The defense has a solid base as well, finishing in the top ten in the league in all four categories (run defense, pass defense, total defense and scoring defense) as they amassed 36 QB sacks and were a plus-nine in the turnover category. Their 19 interceptions were fourth highest in the NFL.
Head Coach Bruce Arians knows this team is loaded and they ooze confidence heading into this season. Playing in the NFC West, their biggest challenge will be the Seattle Seahawks once again.
That is the key for them winning the division once again, beating Seattle in head-to-head games.
How far the Cardinals can go in the playoffs will depend on their desire to reach the Super Bowl. Barring any significant injuries or bad breaks, it's possible they can get there this season for the first time in eight years.
Fearless forecast - 12-4 this year (playoff team)
2016 TEAM SCHEDULE
Week 1 - vs. New England
Week 2 - vs. Tampa Bay
Week 3 - at Buffalo
Week 4 - vs. Los Angeles
Week 5 - at San Francisco
Week 6 - vs. NY Jets
Week 7 - vs. Seattle
Week 8 - at Carolina
Week 9 - BYE
Week 10 - vs. San Francisco
Week 11 - at Minnesota
Week 12 - at Atlanta
Week 13 - vs. Washington
Week 14- at Miami
Week 15 - vs. New Orleans
Week 16 - at Seattle
Week 17 - at Los Angeles