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Cardinals vs Rams: Some season predictions and thoughts on Week 1

Despite improvements, things are still very much in the air.

Doug Pensinger

Typically this will be the column that breaks down the upcoming game, looks at the key match ups and what the Cardinals will need to do to win, as well as posting my pick for the game.

While I am still going to post my pick for this game, I also am going to give my overall thoughts on the season one time from a different perspective than what I usually have.

You see I spend a lot of my free time watching the Cardinals and their opponents, trying to figure out what went wrong, what went right, and how things could look this weekend.

Instead I wanted to take a second to bask in the glory that is the 2013 Cardinals season to be.

It's a time for excitement, as no one, even the guy who is going to make a terrible prediction at the end of this way to long column, has any idea how this season is going to turn out because of all the unknowns.

Bruce Arians has been run out of town in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but his season in Indianapolis as offensive coordinator and interim head coach made him a head coaching candidate for the first time in his career.

He brings a brashness and confidence that was lacking in the previous regime, now it's time for his team and his vision to produce on the field.

That starts with his quarterback Carson Palmer.

Palmer was sent packing out of two less than optimal situations in Cincinnati and Oakland, but looks to resurrect his career in the desert, with a coach who seems to have an unflinching belief in him.

Palmer's put up consistently good numbers: 62.5% 3,864 yards 25 touchdowns and 17 interceptions on average per year, but he's only produced two winning seasons in those nine seasons (ten but he didn't play a game his rookie year) and this seems to be the last stand for the aging veteran.

When the Cardinals picked up Palmer my first reaction was simply, why? This roster looked like it was too far away to compete and the Palmer pick up screamed stopgap, and that's what it is, no matter how they spin it, Palmer is not the answer for the next ten years, he may not be the answer at all, but the Cardinals and their fans are hoping he can give them a little Kurt Warner run, and get them three to five years.

The difference this time, at least from the mouth of the GM is, they will draft and develop a quarterback(s) behind Palmer, you know so there will be a plan in place for the future.

The gamble is that Palmer and this offense may be too good to invest early in a quarterback. What I mean is, if the team goes somewhere in the vicinity of 7-9 to 9-7, selling to the fan base a QB in rounds 1-2 of the draft will be tough, and finding Russell Wilson in round three isn't exactly easy.

While the development of Michael Floyd and Rob Housler will be integral parts to the season, nothing will dictate the success of the season quite like the play of the offensive line.

They've already lost the most integral part of the line, I know he was a rookie but Jonathan Cooper was the key to being able to flex between running power and zone, now they lack a guard who can pull and get out and lead block, so the running game won't be as good, at least in my opinion, but it should be closer to 2011 than the abomination of 2012.

The part that I can't shake though is can they hold up on the edges in pass protection.

Levi Brown has struggled against speed rushers for, well his entire career, and this season he goes up against Robert Quinn, Ezekiel Ansah, Greg Hardy, Aldon Smith, and Chris Clemons to name a few.

Eric Winston has struggled more and more each year with speed and while he was still very good last year in pass pro, he still surrendered 34 total quarterback pressures and was flagged ten times during the season.

The interior will have to find a way to be better than they were in 2011 or 2012, and without Cooper, I am not sure if that is possible.

Defensively I am not even sure where to start, but outside of the front three, I am not sure what to expect from anyone not name Patrick Peterson, especially for the first four weeks without Daryl Washington.

Todd Bowles is an unknown, and what the defense will do is actually more of a concern to me than what the offense can do, since I think the back eight in the defense plus the not knowing how Bowles will use anyone is cause enough for me to take a wait and see approach.

This season really comes down to eight games for me.

I have the Cardinals with two games I think they'll be favored in to win, six games they'll be heavy underdogs, and eight games they'll likely be underdogs, but near toss ups like this weekend in St. Louis.

That means the Cards could end up anywhere from 2-14 to 10-6, but I split the difference for the season and I believe that even though they are an improved team and roster, it doesn't show in the win/loss column and the Cardinals end up for the season as 6-10.

That start this weekend as well, with a loss to the St. Louis Rams, as Jared Cook takes advantage of a limited pass coverage line backing core, and Chris Givens gets a deep ball over Jerraud Powers and the Rams hold off the Cardinals in a mini shootout with a 28-24 win.