It’s Thanksgiving, which means people all over the country will be gathering around a table in order to give thanks for what they have.
Here’s what you can be thankful for if you’re an Arizona Cardinals fan.
5. A division lead – The season is in no way over and nothing is even close to being decided, but the Cardinals having a three-game lead in the NFC West through 11 weeks is nothing to be upset about. Win the division and guarantee yourself a home playoff game. Of course, the Cardinals have eyes on more than just an NFC West crown — they’d like to secure a first-round bye as well as homefield advantage. If the season ended now they would be the NFC’s second seed, though with games against the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks among their final six contests, there is plenty of time for things to change.
4. Larry Fitzgerald – For the longest time, the Cardinals were without a nationally-recognizable face. That all changed with the Super Bowl run, as Larry Fitzgerald’s historic numbers put him very much on the national radar. The third pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, Fitz was supposed to be a dynamic talent, but he’s been more than that over his 11-plus seasons with the franchise. Though he will go down as the greatest receiver in franchise history, Fitzgerald has been a great ambassador for the franchise and leader for its younger players. That he is having a career-best season now, at age 32, is even more impressive, especially since many believed his best days were behind him.
3. Steve Keim/Bruce Arians combo – Both men assumed their posts in Jan. 2013, with Keim landing the general manager job before helping to tab Arians as head coach. Keim worked his way up through the organization after spending 15 seasons in the personnel department, and since taking over as GM has helped construct one of the best rosters in the NFC. Of the 53 players on the team now, 44 were acquired by Keim. As for Arians, the coach has proven to be a master at motivating players who is very adept with play calling, and his confident persona has rubbed off on the team. The Cardinals have won 29 of his first 42 games at the helm, have been to the playoffs once and are poised to do so again.
2. Carson Palmer – Remember how great things were when Kurt Warner was around? Remember how bad they were in the years following his retirement? It’s safe to say every Cardinals fan knew the importance of quality QB play, but perhaps no one realized just how important it was until it could not be found. From the time Warner retired after the 2009 season until Palmer arrived in time for the 2013 campaign, seven different quarterbacks threw at least one pass for the Cardinals. Palmer’s first two seasons in Arizona were a mixed bag of struggles to learn the system, greatness and injury, but this year — his third with the team — is on pace to be among the best in franchise history. The Cardinals are 21-4 over his last 25 starts, giving him the highest winning percentage of any passer over that span.Though he will turn 36 in December, Palmer has shown no signs of slowing down and may have solidified the team’s QB spot for the foreseeable future.
1. Health – Look, no one is trying to jinx anything here. And besides, it’s not like the Cardinals have been perfectly healthy, with Corey Peters out for the year and key players Andre Ellington, John Brown, Michael Floyd, Darren Fells and Mike Iupati all missing some time. But compared to last season, when the team was forced to use four different quarterbacks and saw its Super Bowl dreams wrecked by injury, this year has thus far been smooth sailing. Here’s hoping it continues.