The NFC West is the final division in our previews of all 32 NFL teams, and the first team we’re previewing in the division is the Arizona Cardinals, who finished in third place in the division last season.
Coming off of an 8-8 season, the Cardinals lost the centerpiece of their offense this offseason with the retirement of QB Carson Palmer. That led to the Cardinals using their first-round draft pick on QB Josh Rosen — taking him with the 10th overall pick — and signing veteran QBs Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon to compete for the starting job. Bradford is probably the best of that group, but none of the three is likely to have much upside. There was good news for the offense as RB David Johnson, who suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 1 last year, is ready to return to the field this season. And WR Larry Fitzgerald, who contemplated retirement, ultimately decided to return for his 15th season with the team. The team added to the receiving corps by signing WR Brice Butler and selecting WR Christian Kirk in the second round of the draft. The Cardinals also have a new head coach, with Steve Wilks replacing Bruce Arians and getting his first shot at being a head coach in the NFL.
The offense ranked 22nd in the league with 5,026 yards and 25th with 295 points last season. Bradford only started two games for the Vikings last season, going 32-for-43 for 382 yards and three touchdowns, and Glennon started four games for the Bears in which he threw for 833 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. Fitzgerald had another strong season in 2017, recording 109 receptions for 1,156 yards and six touchdowns. WR JJ Nelson had 29 catches for 508 yards and two touchdowns, while rookie TE Ricky Seals-Jones had 12 catches for 201 yards and three scores in limited playing time over 10 games, including one start. Butler had 15 catches for 317 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games, but no starts, with the Cowboys. There wasn’t much of a running game with Johnson out and the running backs who had most of the carries last season — notable Adrian Peterson and Kerwynn Williams — are no longer with the team. The defense ranked sixth in yards allowed but was 19th in points allowed last season.
The Cardinals begin their 2018 campaign with a home game against the Redskins, then play at the Rams in Week 2. That is followed by home games with the Bears and Seahawks in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively. The Cardinals have a two-game road trip after that, with games at the 49ers and Vikings before returning home to play the Broncos and 49ers in Weeks 7 and 8. After a Week 9 bye, the Cardinals have three straight games against AFC West foes. They visit the Chiefs in Week 10, host the Raiders in Week 11 and hit the road again to play the Chargers in Week 12. They stay on the road in Week 13, playing the Packers at Lambeau Field. The Cardinals host the LIons in Week 14 and visit the Falcons in Week 15, then finish the season with a home game against the Rams in Week 16 and pay a visit to Seattle to battle the Seahawks in Week 17.
It’s not looking like a good season for the Cardinals, who figure to have one of the worst offenses in the league this season. Bradford is currently expected to begin the season as the starting quarterback, but with his injury history he probably won’t finish the year in that capacity. Glennon has never been a great quarterback, and Rosen is a rookie who may not be ready to play at a NFL-caliber level in 2018. The lower level of quarterback play that the Cardinals are likely to have compared to what they got out of Palmer will probably lead to worse numbers for Fitzgerald than what he has done throughout much of his career. Johnson will probably have to be the workhorse in the offense, but is unlikely going to be able to carry the team enough for them to have a good year. After a .500 record last season, the Cardinals may be looking at just five or six wins in 2018 in their first season of the post-Palmer era.