“When you really think about it, people aren’t talking up Arizona enough,” ESPN NFL insider John Clayton told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Friday.
The analyst, who was discussing Arizona’s playoff chances, said he believes new quarterback Carson Palmer, with Bruce Arians calling the shots, will play in all 16 games this season and throw for more than 4,000 yards.
That’s the good news.
The bad news, according to Clayton, is that the Cardinals, quite simply, play in a ridiculously difficult division. Matched up with Super Bowl favorites San Francisco and Seattle — along with an ever-improving St. Louis squad — Arizona’s road is as daunting as anyone’s.
“You’ve got to say that this team is going to be somewhere in that seven to nine-win area,” he said. “And if that’s the case, you know the Rams are already at the seven-win area with one of the best young rosters in football.
“You know how brutal San Francisco is, you know how brutal Seattle is. To me, it’s one of the best divisions in football, and it’s well put together, which is amazing considering where it was back in 2008 when everybody wanted this division as a homecoming destination.”
And, unlike NFL.com writer Albert Breer, who believes the NFC West will send three teams (including the Cardinals) to the postseason, Clayton says odds are the division will max out at two.
“I’d say it’s going to be tough to get more than one Wild Card,” he said, noting it will be whichever of San Francisco and Seattle that does not win the division. “I think it’s going to be hard to get past that, and it’s because of the tough division race.
Clayton added he just does not see any weak teams in the NFC, meaning the West beating up on itself will allow someone from another division to sneak into that second and final Wild Card spot.