Sometimes the numbers lie and in the case of the 2016 Arizona Cardinals, they just don’t add up.
What we witnessed this season was a huge disappointment. A team that was a legitimate Super Bowl contender failed to make the playoffs. A team that reached the NFC Championship Game just a year ago and brought back almost all of its key players failed to even post a .500 record.
But if you had just crawled out from underneath a rock and looked at the stats, you would think the Cardinals had a special season.
Let’s examine 10 statistics that would make you think that Arizona was a great team again in 2016.
1) Arizona lost just one of its six games in the NFC West. Only one other team in the league (the New York Giants) had the best record in its own division and didn’t win it.
2) They scored 418 points — the fourth-most in franchise history.
3) They had 20 rushing touchdowns and 28 passing touchdowns, eclipsing the 20-20 mark in those categories for the first time since 1984.
4) They had the second-ranked defense in the NFL, allowing just 305.2 yards per game.
5) They led the NFL in sacks with 48 after netting only 36 last season.
6) They had two players with double-digit sacks (Markus Golden 12.5 (third in NFL) and Chandler Jones 11) for the first time since 1984.
7) Larry Fitzgerald led the NFL in receptions with 107 and went over 1,000 receiving yards for the eighth time in his career.
8) David Johnson led the NFL and set a franchise record with 2,118 yards from scrimmage.
9) Johnson also led the league in total touchdowns with 20.
10) Carson Palmer threw for over 4,000 yards again (4,233) despite missing a game.
Those numbers alone look sensational. They show a balance between offense and defense. The show dominance on offense in both rushing and receiving and a pass rush that was one of the most improved in the NFL, an area that was a major focus for the team last offseason.
There are so many reasons why the Cardinals flopped in 2016: poor coaching, special teams, a lack of production from the rookie class, injuries, awful cornerback play opposite Patrick Peterson, pass protection issues, Palmer’s fumbling and turnover problems, no deep threat and down years by some key players, mainly at wide receiver.
In the end, the record is what it is and the Cardinals are home for the playoffs.
But I’ll bet that if I told you those 10 stats before the season started, you would have penciled the Cardinals in for a trip to Houston.
- 2017 NFL Mock Draft Tracker: Projections for the Arizona Cardinals
- PFF: Cardinals had fifth-best defensive front seven in 2016
- R.I.P. Vine, the app that was made for Bruce Arians
- ESPN’s Sando: Cardinals have three free agents who are trending upward
- ESPN’s Clayton: Cardinals have four of NFL’s top 50 free agents