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Arizona Cardinals expectations: Carson Palmer, Rashard Mendenhall success does not ensure playoffs

With some people predicting over 4000 yards from Palmer and 1000 from Mendenhall, is this the way to punch their ticket into the postseason?


There has been a lot of great discussion on the site over the past few days about the Arizona Cardinals and their expectations for the 2013 season. The basic premise is that with the personnel improvements -- namely, adding Carson Palmer and Rashard Mendenhall -- that the team will be playoff contender.

What many fans expect offensively is that Palmer, who threw for over 4000 yards with the Oakland Raiders with weak talent at wide receiver, will be able to replicate that, throwing again for at least 4000. Likewise, with the addition of Rashard Mendenhall, who should be fully recovered now from the torn ACL he suffered at the end of 2011, many feel that he will return to the 1000 yard back he was before the injury.

Truth be told, 1000 rushing is not a huge milestone, but considering the history of the Arizona Cardinals and their running backs, it is a big deal.

In essence, the Cards should have a 4000-yard passer and a 1000-yard rusher. That combination means the playoffs, especially with the defense that most hope can statistically match the 17th ranked scoring defense they had (a misleading stat because of the 56 points given up by the offense and special teams).

That actually got me thinking -- how do teams fare with those two milestones met?

It wasn't as good as I thought it would be.

Since 2008, there have been 12 teams to have a 4000-yard passer and a 1000-yard rusher. Only half of them made the playoffs. Three of those teams finished below .500.

Here is how it went:

Team/Year 4K passer 1K rusher record playoffs?
2012 Patriots Brady Ridley 12-4 Yes
2012 Texans Schaub Foster 12-4 Yes
2012 Buccaneers Freeman Martin 7-9 No
2011 Chargers Rivers Mathews 8-8 No
2011 Falcons Ryan Turner 10-6 Yes
2010 Texans Schaub Foster 6-10 No
2010 Giants Manning Bradshaw 10-6 No
2009 Packers Rodgers Grant 11-5 Yes
2009 Vikings Favre Peterson 12-4 Yes
2009 Steelers Roethlisberger Mendenhall 9-7 No
2008 Packers Rodgers Grant 6-10 No
2008 Chargers Rivers Tomlinson 8-8 Yes

Since the offensive factors were not the deciding factor, I decided to look at defensive ranks. I found something.

Of the six teams above that made the playoffs, all but one were 15th or better in points allowed. The one team that was not were the 2011 Falcons, who were 18th in scoring defense.

Of the six teams above that did not make the playoffs, only the 2009 Steelers were better than 17th in scoring defense (they were 12th).

Now, I ignored yards allowed because those numbers were all over the place and, in the end, the points matter. And while it is not necessarily fair to judge the defensive unit on points allowed because points can be scored when the offense and special teams are on the field, it is fair to look at as a team -- team defense, which includes special teams defense and offensive defense (avoiding scoring turnovers).

What does this mean for the Cardinals? They can't have a step back defensively. They actually have to improve. Based on the trends over the last five seasons, you can see a playoff berth IF Palmer throws for at least 4000 yards (a mostly reasonable expectation), IF Mendenhall (or another back) runs for at least 1000 yards (a questionable expectation) and IF the team scoring defense is in the upper half of the league (a reasonable expectation), then the team should make the playoffs.

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