It’s a clean slate.
Every team in the National Football League is 0-0 heading into this week’s action.
For fans of the Arizona Cardinals, that’s a good thing. The 2014 season, once filled with so much promise, ended on a sour note — a 27-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Wild Card round.
That loss was punctuated by several key injuries — most notably quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, who had led the team to a franchise-record 11 wins. They were both out with knee injuries, leaving the starting duties to Ryan Lindley, who had started the season on the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad.
The mere fact that Palmer is now healthy has once again ratcheted the local enthusiasm surrounding the Cardinals to a fever pitch.
That enthusiasm isn’t shared by the folks over at Sports Illustrated.
In their NFL Preview issue, the magazine’s staff has the Cardinals finishing a woeful 5-11 and in last place in the NFC West.
The good news is, SI sees Arizona winning their first two games of the year — Sunday’s home opener against New Orleans and Week 2 in Chicago — before dropping their next 10. They’ve got the Cardinals regrouping in the final quarter of the season — beating Minnesota, Philadelphia and Seattle to push the win total to five.
“I think that’s a little bit low, yeah,” head coach Bruce Arians joked with Bickley and Marotta Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Vegas at least gave us 8-8, I think.”
Most experts called the 2014 Cardinals “lucky” for their propensity to pull out close wins. Arizona was 7-1 in games decided by 10 points or less and often used late scoring plays to salt away victories. Arians doesn’t think you can quantify that ingredient.
“You don’t win on talent, you win on character,” Arians said. “We won a lot of close games the last two years and everybody thinks they’re flukes. But we win them because we have high-character guys who win in the fourth quarter.”
Arians isn’t bothered by that national perspective, but doesn’t really pay much attention to it either.
“I don’t really listen to it,” he said. “I mean last year, nobody picked us better than 7-9. That’s why you play the season, man.
“Somebody’s got to sell some papers this time of year. We get to go play the games, so I don’t put much stock in it.”
The Cardinals open their season, Arians’ third with the team, Sunday against the New Orleans Saints at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
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