Arizona Cardinals 2018 NFL Team Preview
2017 Record: 8-8
2017 ATS: 6-9-1
2017 Overs/Unders: 6-10
2018 Regular Season Wins Total: 6
Change is the operative word in Arizona for the 2018 season. The Cardinals have completely turned over the coaching staff with new head coach Steve Wilks and a set of new coordinators. They also have several key players returning from injury who missed significant time last season. This simply won’t be the same team we saw on the field last season.
Wilks comes from Carolina where he was the defensive coordinator for a top 10 Panthers defense last season. But he hasn’t exactly worked for any football geniuses; serving under Lovie Smith, Norv Turner and Ron Rivera during this coaching career. I’m just not sure this was the right hire. The Cardinals were near the tops in the league in several key defensive categories last season. But it’s their offense that is going to need the most help and for that they call on offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. This was another questionable hire. McCoy doesn’t have a great track record and Arizona needs a ton of help if they want to be productive.
“The key thing I think as a coach and as the offensive coordinator is to find out what our players do best,” McCoy said, “and we’ll adjust accordingly.”
The problem is that there aren’t many things that the players on this offense have proven they can do well. After losing all three quarterbacks from last year’s roster, Sam Bradford comes in as the starting QB. He has a mediocre 85.1 career passer rating and doesn’t have a great offensive line protecting him. Four of the five starting offensive linemen finished last season on injured reserve, so health is a definite question mark. Arizona did add a new right side of the line and get back dynamic running back David Johnson back in the fold. Johnson was injured in Week 1 last season after recording 2,100 yards from scrimmage in the season before. Expect McCoy to install a scheme designed to heavily feature the running game while making use of the fullback and focusing on the short passing game. Wilks has also been on record stressing that the running game has to carry the offense. That’s a pretty big shift in philosophy from Carson Palmer airing it out last season with 271 four-wide receiver sets. There are some new faces in the receiver corps and Larry Fitzgerald isn’t getting any younger at 35 years of age.
The defense will be aggressive. Wilks called the most blitzes in the league last season in Carolina and he has a better unit in Arizona overall. There are some nice young pieces here including LB Haason Reddick and a big talent in tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who didn’t reach his potential last season. The defense is what kept Arizona in nearly every game last season, but it’s tough to forecast any improvement (4th in DVOA). The best-case scenario is they repeat last year’s performance. Poor special teams have also plagued the Cardinals for years and it could get even worse as Patrick Peterson may not be returning punts any longer.
Last season, the Cardinals were 6-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less. They also benefitted from the most opponent penalties of any team. Regression from those two metrics alone is enough to reduce their 2017 win total of eight by a couple of games. The Cardinals also don’t have a single bottom-feeder team on their schedule all season long. Throw in the questionable new coaching staff and a big weakness at quarterback, and it’s tough to envision the Cardinals being competitive. At some point during the season, we will probably see first round draft pick QB Josh Rosen. By that time, the season will probably be lost and the Cardinals will be eyeing the draft board to see how they can improve the 2019 team.
Bettors Should Keep an Eye On:
The effectiveness of running back David Johnson. If Johnson can’t regain his old form from two seasons ago, this Arizona offense has the potential to be one of the very worst in the league. The offensive line is going to have to stay healthy and that certainly hasn’t been the case in recent years.
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