The Arizona Cardinals will make a run at Super Bowl 50.
The Arizona Cardinals will win five games.
Both things have been predicted by some pretty well-respected folks in NFL media, and as the Cards get set to kick off their 2015 season, each could still possibly come to fruition.
Sure, time will tell what happens to the team in Bruce Arians’ third season at the helm, but ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski leans more toward the first option than the second.
“It’s a good football team — in fact, it’s a very good football team,” Jaworski told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday. “And they will be a Super Bowl contender if they can get healthy and stay healthy.”
Jaworski said the most important place to be healthy is at quarterback, where Carson Palmer is returning after an ACL injury that cost him the second half of the 2014 campaign. Combined with a shoulder injury, the veteran appeared in just six games last season — all of which the Cardinals won.
Over Palmer’s last 15 games with the Cardinals, the team has piled up 13 wins while the QB has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 4,159 yards and 27 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 96.1.
“They were a Super Bowl contender a year ago if Carson Palmer had stayed healthy, it was as simple as that,” Jaworski added. “There are some other plug-and-play players. The organization as a whole has done a really good job of bringing in more talent, an improvement in the talent. So I think clearly this is a football team that can challenge, but it has to stay healthy and particularly at the quarterback position.”
It would also help to have an improved running game, which shouldn’t be too difficult given that Arizona ranked second-to-last in the NFL last year in rushing yards. With Andre Ellington healthy and now backed up by Chris and David Johnson — along with some improvements along the offensive line — things should be better this year.
The Cardinals will not win much if they don’t have a running game, Jaworski said, but he expressed confidence in Arians’ ability to maximize the talent on the roster. Yet, coaching can only take a team so far.
“The job that Bruce did last year was absolutely remarkable,” he said. “We talked about it last season, overcoming injuries and not being able to run the football and not being able to protect the quarterback and all those things, and yet Bruce was finding a way to win.
“You just can’t do that year in, year out. Eventually your players have to be on the field and they have to make plays.”
All that said, Jaworski said he believes the Cardinals are “rock solid” when healthy, which is why he’s comfortable saying Arizona will be a factor when it is all said and done.
“They will be a playoff football team,” he said.
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