Attention New Orleans: Here come the Cardinals!
The Arizona Cardinals will be down on Bourbon Street at this time next year playing for the Lombardi Trophy. Yes, I'm calling my shot a year in advance.
I'm not a Cards homer, I've never done drugs and I haven't had one sip of alcohol since enjoying a glass of champagne with my wife on New Years' Eve. In other words, I'm not impaired. My I.Q.'s normal and my boss didn't tell me to write a bold column to generate traffic to ArizonaSports.com. Truth be told, I can't stand making predictions. Some people I know assume that just because I work in sports for a living -- and have for the last 12.5 years -- that I have all the answers. Ha!
Here's the method to my apparent madness: Whether Peyton Manning, Kevin Kolb or John Skelton is under center, the Cards are in good shape as far as offensive playmakers go. They still have arguably the best wide receiver in the game, and I saw enough from Andre Roberts late in the season to think he has the potential to be, let's just say, for kicks and giggles, a Pierre Garcon. Speaking of Garcon, Colts teammate Reggie Wayne is a free agent and probably won't be back, especially if Manning's gone. I'm also a big fan of Marques Colston who, when healthy, is a nightmare for opposing corners. The Saints know that too, so the Cards may have to spend more than they want on him.
Arizona appears to be in good shape at running back with Beanie Wells proving he can play (and play effectively) through pain, plus Ryan Williams should be back from a knee injury that robbed him of his rookie season.
The aforementioned LSU standout (Peterson) is already one of the top return threats in the game, and also made incredible strides at cornerback his rookie season. I also find it hard to believe the team won't bring Calais Campbell back after what he did last season.
Yes, they need an offensive line - badly. I fully expect them to address that in the draft and via free agency. They could also still use a consistent corner opposite P.P. I'm a big fan of their young linebackers, Daryl Washington and Sam Acho.
The biggest question facing the Cards is the most important one: Who's under center? A healthy Manning (assuming of course both parties want each other) all but guarantees a playoff spot. Skelton continues to improve (all though he could learn how to lead first half scoring drives). Kolb is the biggest question mark - for some. I think if Kolb stays healthy, he's better than Alex Smith and Tarvaris Jackson. He's certainly better than Smith, and we saw what he just did for a 49ers team that won with defense and a "play-it-safe, don't screw anything up" offense.
The reason I really like the Cards to make a return trip to the Super Bowl next year, they know this thing (Whisenhunt) works, and they're not a bunch of quitters. They're also confident after winning seven of nine to end the season, and doing so in come from behind fashion. They respond well to pressure and should only get better, since they'll actually have an offseason to put things together.
Again, I'm not a Cardinals homer. And just to prove it, I fully expect them to lose to my hometown Texans in the Super Bowl.