Back in early August, ESPN NFL reporter Jim Trotter, as a guest of Off the Edge with B-Train on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, said he felt the Arizona Cardinals would finish third in the NFC West.
That could still happen, of course, but three games into the season it does not look like a great bet.
“They’re playing great football,” he said on the same show Wednesday. “They’re not playing their best football, but the fact that they can do what they’ve done without being at their best tells you a lot about this team.”
The Cardinals are 3-0 on the season with home wins over the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers as well as a road win at the Chicago Bears, but it’s not just that they’ve won the games that has impressed folks around the league.
Their 126 total points are tied for the fourth-most in NFL history through three games and are the most of any team in the NFL this season, and their +77 point differential is by far the best mark in the league. The Cardinals have also yet to trail any point in a game this year.
“I think that there’s credit to go all the way around in this, too,” Trotter added. “You can talk about the personnel moves of Steve Keim, the great coaching of Bruce Arians and his staff, the play of the offense with Carson Palmer, who to me, coming back from that injury and playing at the level he is is one of the more remarkable stories in football this year. The resurgence of Larry Fitzgerald, a defense that’s even stingier with Todd Bowles gone, and a lot of us didn’t think that was possible.
“I know some of your listeners got on me in the preseason when I said I had them picked for third in the division; I don’t have a problem saying I was wrong. They’re a lot better than I thought they were.”
Despite their great start to the season, there are still some who are a bit uneasy about proclaiming the Cardinals to be one of the NFL’s best teams. A quick look at the power rankings has them in the top five, with Yahoo! Sports’, in particular, questioning the quality of the teams Arizona has beaten.
And to be fair, the Saints, Bears and 49ers have a combined record of 1-8, and none are expected to compete for a playoff spot.
But the Cardinals cannot help who is on their schedule, and the way Trotter sees it, they have passed the eye test.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think the key is obviously can they keep the quarterback healthy? As long as he’s upright and playing at the level that he’s playing at, they’ve got a shot.”
The veteran Palmer has won his last nine starts, and has led the Cardinals to victories in 16 of his last 18 outings. His nine touchdown passes this season are tied for the NFL lead and are also the second-most in franchise history through the first three games of a season.
Trotter went on to note a conversation he had with Fitzgerald, who told him — with no disrespect meant — that this may be the most talented team he’s ever been a part of.
“He talked about the fact that there are so many weapons, particularly from an offensive standpoint,” Trotter said.
He said Fitzgerald, who has 23 catches for 333 yards and an NFL-best five touchdowns so far this year, mentioned how if a defense decides to try to take him away there will be no shortage of players ready and able to pick up the slack.
“He said in the past, when you look at that offense, it would be him, it would be Anquan (Boldin), it would be Edgerrin (James), and once you got past that, respectfully, there wasn’t a lot,” Trotter said. “But when you look at it now, you can just go down the list of a number of guys — and he did go down the list of guys who can win one-on-one battles and make plays.
“So this is a very deep team offensively, and defensively I just love the swagger that they play with in terms of ball hawking, not being content, everyone wanting to make the play. When you look at their point differential they’re plus-77; there are some teams, a handful of teams in the league that have not even scored 77 points. I don’t know what there’s not to like about this team.”
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