In our final installment of predicting the Arizona Cardinals 2010 record (hard to believe I started this two months ago, right?), we'll finish with the final two games of the season. Last week, we saw the Cardinals beat the Broncos at home while falling to the always-difficult Carolina Panthers on the road. This week could be the most crucial, as the Cardinals face a good Cowboys team at home and play the division rival San Francisco 49ers on the road to end the season. Winning these games could mean winning the division in 2010.
If you wish to see the previous 14 weeks, head over here.
Week 16 vs Dallas Cowboys
Offseason Analysis: The Dallas Cowboys were surprisingly one of the quietest teams in the league as opposed to years past. There hasn't been much drama up to this point, other than Roy Williams' obvious issues with denial and Tony Romo's PGA dreams. The team lost some role players through free agency, but their biggest offseason acquisition was the drafting of high-profile wide out Dez Bryant. Bryant will give Romo another big-play threat on offense, something that he benefited from last year with the emergence of receiver Miles Austin and the stable of running backs they possess. The team failed to address some holes along the offensive line and the defense, holes that stemmed from their 34-3 playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings last season.
Season Outlook: After finally earning a playoff win in nearly 15 years against the Eagles last season, the Cowboys have something to build off of heading into 2010. Jerry Jones may have learned that too many flashy players can become distracting, and that sticking to football 101 can pay off in the long run. They're set on offense, and if their defense can pressure opposing quarterbacks and defend against the pass, they should be bound for another run at the playoffs next year.
Key Match-Up: Adrian Wilson vs Jason Witten - The x-factor on offense for the Cowboys is Jason Witten. He can block and catch with the best of them and he is Tony Romo's security blanket. He can also butcher defenses and it will be Wilson's job to defend against him.
Prediction: Win - In a Saturday contest on Christmas night, the Cardinals will give a present to their fans with a win over the Cowboys. When these two teams played each other two seasons ago, the Cowboys were heavily favored to win, only for the Cardinals to win one of the most exciting games in their history. The same will happen this year.
A prediction against the 49ers and the Cardinals predicted record after 16 games are after the jump...
Week 17 vs San Francisco 49ers
Offseason Analysis: The main goal of the 49ers this offseason was to build off of the success they experienced last season. Their defense was one of the top units in the league. Instead of making drastic changes, they added role players in Will James and Karl Paymah. On offense, they kept the skill positions the same, but vastly improved the offensive line when they drafted Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis.
Season Outlook: With a full offseason and soon-to-be regular season under his belt, wide receiver Michael Crabtree is primed for a breakout 2010 season. Frank Gore is returning healthy and the 49ers continue to boast a forceful defense. The team is placing all of their eggs in one basket however, with Alex Smith at quarterback. If he doesn't succeed next season, the 49ers will struggle and will be staring at 2nd place in the NFC West again. If he can build off of the numbers he put up last year, Smith may be leading the 49ers to their first playoff appearance since 2002.
Key Match-Up: Matt Leinart vs Alex Smith - The obvious match-up that everyone enjoys between these two teams is Adrian Wilson vs Vernon Davis, but since I already used that in their first match-up, Leinart vs Smith is the next best thing. This game takes place during the final week of the season with much on the line. Both quarterbacks will have something to prove and both will want to take their teams to the next level.
Prediction: Loss - The Cardinals took the first match up at home, but won't be able to fend off the 49ers on the road. For the first time in years, both teams will split the season match up.
Arizona Cardinals Projected 2010 Record: 10-6
After reviewing the final prediction, a 10-6 record doesn't appear that far out of the question. This team has experienced a lot of changes this offseason and there are several unknowns heading into next year. I also noticed a few trends with my predictions; the Cardinals were 4-4 on the road, 6-2 at home, 4-2 within the division, and 1-3 against playoff teams from last season. One thing the Cardinals have taught me, however, is that they can beat any team on any given Sunday - it's figuring out which games they are that is the hard part. What are your thoughts on my prediction and what is yours for 2010?