Given the benefit of seeing how the Denver Broncos just dismantled a great Carolina Panthers offense, it’s fair to wonder if the Arizona Cardinals would have had a shot to take home the Lombardi Trophy had they gotten through the NFC Championship Game.
Maybe Arizona’s offense, which features better receivers, could have moved the ball. Or, perhaps the less-mobile Carson Palmer would have suffered an even worse fate than Cam Newton against that relentless Denver pass rush.
At any rate, the Cardinals did not earn the right to play in Super Bowl 50, and the way in which they fell short has many wondering if they’ll have enough to make another run next season.
NFL.com analyst Elliot Harrison not only thinks they will have enough, but sees them as one of three teams primed to win Super Bowl LI in Houston.
“A couple things on the Cardinals, Carson Palmer’s not going to turn the ball over six times again,” he said on NFL Now with James Koh. “I know not everybody believes in him, maybe you don’t think, James, that he’s a top-five quarterback, but you could argue he’s a top-15 quarterback, top-10.”
Though Palmer struggled in the playoffs, he had an MVP-caliber regular season in which he threw for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns while being intercepted 11 times.
Koh pointed out that Palmer “added a lot of stability” to Arizona’s offense, a point that Harrison agreed with.
Citing his numbers, Harrison said even if you think Palmer’s season was a bit of an anomaly, it’s tough to see him having the kind of turnover-filled game he did in the NFC Championship Game, where he was picked off four times and lost two fumbles.
But his belief in the Cardinals is not solely based on the quarterback.
“This defense is going to be better,” Harrison said. “Bruce Arians made it very clear, he’s going after pass rushers — and oh by the way, while we’re on the subject of Bruce Arians, who’s a better coach than Bruce Arians?”
Indeed, bolstering the pass rush has been a topic pretty much from the moment the Cardinals’ season ended, with both Arians and general manager Steve Keim talking about the need to add talent to a group that collected just 36 sacks this past season.
As for Arians himself, the coach has posted a 34-14 mark in three seasons with the Cardinals, and including his stint as the interim coach in Indianapolis has a .717 winning percentage in 60 games, which ranks fifth all-time.
Along with the Cardinals, Harrison pointed to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers as teams who are primed to win it all next season.