Football Outsiders: Arizona Cardinals to take big step back in 2015

Aug 13, 2015, 10:34 AM | Updated: 1:51 pm
Cardinals players huddle up during training camp. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)...
Cardinals players huddle up during training camp. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

In Arizona, the talk surrounding the Cardinals is not about whether or not they are good, but rather whether or not they are good enough to compete for a spot in Super Bowl 50.

Nationally, though, that’s not necessarily the case.

Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz is not particularly high on the team, giving the Cardinals an 18.4 percent chance at making the playoffs and a 0.8 percent shot at winning the Super Bowl. Oh, and he lists their mean win total at 6.7.

In fact, in an ESPN Insider piece listing five teams on the decline in 2015, the Cardinals top the list.

By far our strongest candidate to decline in 2015, Arizona had absurdly good fortune last season, finishing 11-5. That might sound like a ridiculous statement about a team that lost its starting quarterback for much of the year, but the Cardinals won a lot of close games in which they got the right breaks. Teams that outscore opponents by 11 points all season should go roughly 8-8, not 11-5. Based on play-by-play breakdown, Football Outsiders’ metrics ranked Arizona as the 22nd-best team in the league last season.

The return of Carson Palmer should improve the offense, but not by much. Palmer really didn’t play much better than Drew Stanton last year. (Ryan Lindley is another story; he was horrendous.) Standard stats just make Palmer look better than Stanton because he faced such an easy slate of defenses. When he was hurt, Palmer avoided Seattle (twice), San Francisco (twice), Detroit and Denver. The defense, meanwhile, will probably be good but not as good as it had been in 2012 and 2013 because there’s a new coordinator and a lot of departed talent (primarily Larry Foote and Antonio Cromartie).

The other problem for Arizona is that we project them with the hardest schedule in the NFL this season. The AFC North and NFC North might be the league’s two deepest divisions, and the Cardinals also play at Philly (instead of the Giants or Redskins) thanks to their second-place divisional finish last season. Since 2005, the team we have projected before the season with the toughest schedule has dropped from an average of 9.5 wins the year before to just 7.6 wins, and those numbers would be 9.7 wins and 7.0 wins if we took out the 2012 Denver team that replaced Tim Tebow with Peyton Manning.

While you may not be pleased to read what Schatz has to say, he’s not so much knocking the team’s talent as he is pointing out that the numbers say the Cards are due to take a step back. His point is actually not all that different from the one Grantland’s Bill Barnwell made, with the logic being that Arizona wasn’t exactly dominant last season and needed a few big plays to come out on top in some games. If the Cardinals have to rely on a similar formula again in 2015, it’s not unreasonable to think they won’t be as successful.

Then again, it’s also possible the Cardinals will be better in 2015 than they were in 2014 and therefore will not need as many big plays late in games to win.

We’ll just have to see.

Life Changer Loans
Safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) returns an interception while linebacker Kevin Minter (51) blocks during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Receiver John Brown (12) celebrates Darren Fells' TD catch during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Tight end Darren Fells makes a touchdown catch in front of safety Deone Bucannon during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Rookie tackle D.J. Humphries tries to keep LB LaMarr Woodley away from QB Drew Stanton during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) The offense and defense prepare for the snap during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Assistant offensive line coach Larry Zierlein talks with Bobby Massie during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Cornerback Patrick Peterson claps after a play during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Members of the secondary wait for the snap during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) The offense lines up during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Linebacker Kevin Minter applies pressure to QB Carson Palmer during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Members of the defense line up during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) The offensive line blocks during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Receiver John Brown is tackled by cornerback Patrick Peterson after making a catch during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Receiver John Brown leaps to make a catch during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Cornerback Patrick Peterson works to cover receiver John Brown during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) The Cardinals' first-team offensive line walks to the line of scrimmage during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin talks with receiver Larry Fitzgerald during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Head coach Bruce Arians watches during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Safety Tony Jefferson talks to cornerback Justin Bethel during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Receiver Larry Fitzgerald talks to former teammate Adrian Wilson during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Linebacker Markus Golden grabs TE Gerald Chrstian's jersey during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Cornerback Justin Bethel watches during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug. 12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) QB Carson Palmer drops back to pass while RB Andre Ellington is there to block during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug.12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

Arizona Cardinals

Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field following the NFL game at ...
Alex Weiner

Hard Knocks recap: Kyler Murray returns to forefront, Cardinals give back on Thanksgiving

Kyler Murray returned, the Cardinals lost another heartbreaker and several teammates gave back on Thanksgiving in the latest episode.
14 hours ago
Paris Johnson Jr. #77 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against the Northwestern Wildcats during...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals nab OL Paris Johnson in Brugler’s 1st mock draft for 2023

The Athletic's Dane Brugler graced us with his first mock of the year on Wednesday and has the Cardinals taking OSU's Paris Johnson at No. 7.
2 days ago
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 20: Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals is congratul...
Arizona Sports

Kyler Murray calls out Patrick Peterson for condemning comments made on podcast

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray let his frustration with former teammate Patrick Peterson calling him out on a podcast known.
2 days ago
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andre Baccellia (82) pulls in a pass for a touchdown in front of Ci...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals re-sign WR Andre Baccellia to practice squad

The Arizona Cardinals re-signed wide receiver Andre Baccellia to the team's practice squad on Wednesday morning.
2 days ago
Arizona Cardinals S Jalen Thompson points during practice on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyl...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals’ Jalen Thompson left off ESPN’s under-25 ranking

Safety Jalen Thompson has been a constant within the Arizona Cardinals defense over the past couple seasons.
2 days ago
Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray looks on during practice on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyl...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals enter Week 13 with minute chance at making 2022 NFL playoffs

Mathematically, the Arizona Cardinals somehow still have a sliver of postseason hope remaining in the 2022 season.
3 days ago
Football Outsiders: Arizona Cardinals to take big step back in 2015