Before I jump into the record predictions, I just want to apologize for my absence yesterday. I was very busy and didn't have time to post anything ... plus it's the offseason and there isn't a lot going on. Last week, the Cardinals wound up with a 8-4 record after enjoying wins against the Seahawks and 49ers. The next stretch of four games will be the toughest out of the entire schedule. Will the Cardinals pull out on top?
Week 14 vs Denver Broncos
Key Additions: Jamal Williams (DT), Tim Tebow (QB), Demaryius Thomas (WR), Akin Ayodele (ILB), Justin Bannan (DE), Bruce Davis (LB), Kyle Eckel (FB), Jarvis Green (DE), Nate Jones (SS), Brady Quinn (QB)
Key Losses: Brandon Marshall (WR), Tony Scheffler (TE), Casey Wiegmann (C), Ryan Torain (RB), Chris Simms (QB), Chad Jackson (WR), Vonnie Holliday (DE), Ben Hamilton (G), Andra Davis (ILB)
Offseason Analysis: The Broncos experienced an offseason similar to the Cardinals, losing several talented players in Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler, and Andra Davis. Although they did some patchwork, replacing that talent may prove to be too difficult. Demaryius Thomas has the big-play ability that Marshall left with, but can't immediately provide relief his rookie season. They brought in several free agent defenders for the second consecutive season, but the biggest offseason story was drafting Tim Tebow. Whether he contributes soon remains to be seen, but until then, he'll continue to be a storyline in Denver.
Season Outlook: The Broncos have jumped out of the gate strong each of the last two seasons, only to fall short of the playoffs and skid into the offseason. I'd expect nothing different in 2010. With the dangerous San Diego Chargers and improving Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, winning the AFC West will not be as easy as it once was. The Broncos will prove that losing that much talent on an already average team will be too much to handle.
Key Match-Up: Beanie Wells vs Knowshon Moreno - Although both running backs will not face each other head to head, their numbers will be something to look out for. Both backs were taken in the first round of last year's draft and both were considered the best coming out of college. This will be the battle of who is/was the better choice.
Prediction: Win - The Cardinals face a fairly talented team at home and match up well with the Broncos at every position. The Broncos won't be able to out-score the Cardinals and stopping both the running and passing attack will pose too many problems for a Denver defense without coordinator Mike Nolan.
A prediction against the Carolina Panthers and the Cardinals record after 14 games are after the jump ...
Week 15 at Carolina Panthers
Key Additions: Jimmy Clausen (QB), Aaron Francisco (FS), Marcus Hudson (CB), Brian Witherspoon (CB), Wallace Wright (WR)
Key Losses: Julius Peppers (DE), Dante Wesley (CB), Muhsin Muhammad (WR), Jake Delhomme (QB), Maake Kemoeatu (DT), Damione Lewis (DT), Na'il Diggs (OLB), Brad Hoover (FB), Chris Harris (S)
Offseason Analysis: Peppers, Muhammad, Delhomme (Yes, Delhomme), Hoover, and Harris are just a few players that the Panthers lost this offseason. Jimmy Clausen and Aaron Francisco (Yikes!) are the two biggest names that were added. The Panthers did strike gold, however, when they were able to draft Clausen in the second round back in April. They also kept their three best offensive players -- Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart -- as part of their offense.
Season Outlook: The Panthers will rely heavily on their running game next season to lead the offense, especially with a rookie quarterback at the helm. They also lost Peppers and despite reports that he didn't put forth a consistent effort last season, he cannot be replaced easily. And considering they play in the same division as the Super Bowl champion Saints and a very good Falcons team, finishing with a winning record in 2010 may not be as easy as years past.
Key Match-Up: Steve Smith vs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - Although the Panthers running game gave the Cardinals' defense fits last season, there's no denying that Smith poses a match-up problem for the Cardinals. Whether it be the 50-yard touchdown last year or the touchdown pass where he did or didn't step out of bounds in 2008, Smith has the ability to breakaway for a long run. DRC will need to be at his best when these two teams match up next season.
Prediction: Loss - Yes, I know the Panthers lost a lot of talent and are the 3rd-best team in their division, but somehow they give the Cardinals problems during the regular season. The Cardinals are on a six-game losing streak against the Panthers during the regular season and playing on the road will likely extend the streak to seven.
Arizona Cardinals record after twelve games: 9-5
Before anyone grills me, I realize the Cardinals should and can beat both of these teams and head into week 16 with a 10-4 record. I also know the Cardinals lose a lot of games that they should win, plus I still have nightmares about the
loss demolishing (which I attended) last year to the Panthers. What would your record be for the Cardinals after 14 games and will 9-5 be enough for first place in the division at this point?