There were a lot of losses in 2016 for the Arizona Cardinals that can be traced to particular players or positions.
While the difference between a 9-10 win and the seven win Cardinals is a razor thin margin.
That's why season predictions are so interesting to watch this offseason, because they really range all in the same vicinity.
Pro Football Focus has released their initial, I'm assuming they will change, win projections for the 2017 season and they are positive for the Cardinals.
"4. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
In 2015, the Cardinals were a game away from the Super Bowl. They followed that up with a season where they were top 12 in terms of PFF overall grade for the team, and they scored 50 more points than they allowed, but still ended up with a losing record. They will definitely miss longtime veteran Calais Campbell, but many of the lowest-graded players on the roster are either no longer on the roster or will no longer see playing time unless there is an injury. Winning more close games than they lose should get the Cardinals on the right side of .500, and if Carson Palmer or Tyrann Mathieu is able to return to their 2015 form, Arizona should find their way back into the playoffs."
In a not so shocking revelation, the Cardinals gain back three wins, despite the hole Calais Campbell will create.
Why? Because Pro Football Focus is banking on two of their highest graded performers from 2015 to return to form.
This is one of the pratfalls of analytics, is you tend to lean on them no matter what.
Palmer and Mathieu have changed white a bit since 2015. Is it smart to expect them to reach those heights again?
If that is the basis of why you are picking the Cardinals to improve, I'd suggest caution.
However, I think there are a couple of other reasons the Arizona Cardinals can win 10 games and get back to the playoffs in 2017.
- An emphasis on the run game and controlling the clock.
- A more athletic and dynamic defense.
- Improved special teams.
Maybe the best thing about this projection, the Arizona Cardinals win the NFC West in 2017.
Getting to the playoffs is not the goal, but it will be much better to be involved again than sitting at home in January.
What do you think?