Every year Football Outsiders produces one of the must buy analytics and information based books of the year. The 2017 Football Outsiders Almanac is available for purchase now and Football Outsiders was kind enough to provide us some answers on the 2016 Arizona Cardinals and look forward to the 2017.
This is the last of the five questions with Bryan Knowles of Football Outsiders, and I wanted it to stand alone because it is a question on everyone’s mind.
How good is the Cardinals offense still?
Our projections have them almost exactly average – -0.2% and 16th in the league. That's a slight improvement over last season, though nowhere close to what they did in 2015.
The big variable is how Carson Palmer will play in 2017, and the big variable there is how well his offensive line can keep him upright. The line dropped from 5th to 21st in adjusted sack rate, and Palmer had the most hits (87) and knockdowns (127) in the league. That's not good for a 38-year-old body! If the offensive line returns to something approaching their 2015 form –so a 4.4% sack rate rather than a 6.3% one – then the conditions are right for Palmer to return to…well, not his near-MVP form of 2015 because that was a massive outlier, but something more than respectable.
Think Kurt Warner in his last season in Arizona, or late-career, Super Bowl-winning John Elway. There's enough talent in the skill positions for a very solid offense if everything goes right. Then again, if the offensive line struggles again, either due to injuries or the continued pass protection struggles of D.J. Humphries and Mike Iupati, then Arizona will find it difficult to generate any significant passing attack this season.
There's enough talent at the skill positions to make something happen, but they've gotta keep their QB upright first.