Arizona Cardinals: Pretenders or Contenders?

Ken Whisenhunt (Getty)

Coming off their worst loss since 2002, the Arizona Cardinals look to salvage a dismal end to the regular season this week against the Seattle Seahawks. Arizona has lost four of its last five outings and has dropped five consecutive games against non-divisional opponents. Brad Wilbricht analyzes the Cardinals' weaknesses and outlines why there's still hope in the desert.

Pretenders

Along with the Denver Broncos, the Arizona Cardinals are the only division leader that has been outscored by their opponents. The Cardinals have been outscored 405-393 this season, including being pummeled 130-41 in their last four losses. Arizona has defeated only two teams with a winning record, upending the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 and knocking off the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6.

The Cardinals inept running game has hurt them all year and will be no different come the postseason. Arizona is averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry and has a long run of just 30 yards. Although RB Edgerrin James was taken out of the starting lineup in Week 9, he still leads the team in rushing with 414 yards on 119 carries. Rookie RB Tim Hightower showed tremendous promise early, but has since cooled off. Hightower has been limited to 22 yards per contest over his last seven games.

The Cardinals' defense has been ineffective for most of the second half of the season, allowing an average of 35 points per outing over their last five games. In addition, Arizona's secondary has been torched for 16 touchdowns through the air during that span. After compiling 23 sacks in their first 10 games, the Cardinals' pass rush has been held in check. They've been unable to consistently rush the passer and have managed only seven sacks in their last five games.


Contenders


WR Larry Fitzgerald
(Getty)

On offense, the Cardinals are still an explosive unit and could be due to breakout in the playoffs. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald have both topped 1,000 yards receiving and are one of the most productive wide receiver tandems in the NFL. Despite suffering multiple injuries, Boldin has reeled in 89 passes for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns. Fitzgerald has totaled 91 receptions for 1,301 yards and has reached the end zone on 10 occasions.

When given sufficient time in the pocket, QB Kurt Warner is one of the most accurate and consistent passers in the league. Warner's numbers have dropped in recent weeks but he's still completing 67 percent of his passes while maintaining a QB rating of 95.5 Furthermore, Warner has accumulated 4,320 yards passing and has tossed 26 touchdowns. The former two-time MVP has a history of success in the postseason, including a Super Bowl title in 2000.

The Cardinals will be hosting their first playoff game since 1947 and should reap the benefits of playing on their home turf. Five of their losses have come on the East Coast, a place Arizona has struggled during Ken Whisenhunt's tenure in the desert. In Whisenhunt's two-year stint as head coach, the Cardinals have lost all eight of their games out east. Conversely, Arizona has thrived at University of Phoenix Stadium with a record of 11-4.


Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com

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