Beyond the Bison: Lighthouse

Doug Hendry, Editor-in-Chief

Despite having risen steadily in the NFL standings as an elite team over the past few years, the Arizona Cardinals have not received their fair share of recognition. This season, Arizona should be in the Super Bowl conversation.

31-19, 48-23, and 47-7. Those are the scores of Arizona’s first games of the 2015 season, and although they haven’t faced the strongest competition yet, the Cardinals easily sit at the top of the NFC West. They aren’t likely to relinquish that lead any time soon.

Averaging 42 points and 391 yards per game, the Cardinal offense is at the top of the pack. For a team that’s always been known for its defense, Arizona is scoring at an unprecedented pace. While they won’t hold that pace for the rest of the season, even the best defenses won’t be able to stop them.

Still, the 3-4 defense has the same caliber it had in its 11-5 season from 2014. Calais Campbell and Kevin Minter anchor the front seven, but the secondary is the team’s true strength, matching up against the best receivers in the game.

As cornerback, Patrick Peterson has never missed a game in his four-year career, and his ability to consistently stay on the field has allowed him to garner strong chemistry with the rest of the secondary. Often discussed with the likes of Darrelle Revis and Joe Haden, opposing offenses rarely attack Peterson’s side of the field.

Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Johnson man two of three safety positions, as the two combine with hard-hitting safety Deone Bucannon to compile, in my opinion, the best secondary in the game. Just ask Colin Kaepernick, who threw four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, in his first 10 passes in his week three matchup against Arizona.

Bruce Arians has had a lot of success wherever he has coached, and Cardinal fans should be thankful that he landed in Arizona in 2013, combining for a 24-11 regular season record as the team’s coach. Arians’s no-nonsense approach has caused Arizona to fly under the radar, but that’s exactly how he likes it.

The competition in the division will be light, at least in the beginning of the season. Seattle has looked atrocious on offense en route to a 1-2 record, St. Louis has played very inconsistently after a strong week one, and don’t even get me started on the San Francisco 49ers—they been having trouble since half their team left over the off-season. There’s no competition in the NFC West, and unless Seattle is able to right the ship soon, there is no doubt that Arizona will take the division title.

But the biggest reason to believe in Arizona this season? Carson Palmer. Yes, the 35-year-old, 12-year veteran quarterback is the best chance for the Cardinals to win a Super Bowl, and this year will be his best chance. Despite competing in the playoffs just twice–both with Cincinnatti–Palmer has the ability and supporting crew to get the job done.

Arizona has won the last nine games that Palmer has started. Going back to last season, Palmer has totaled 2,429 passing yards and 20 touchdowns in those nine games. That would be good for a career-high 4,274 yards and 24 touchdowns if stretched into a 16-game season. Best of all is Palmer’s 117.8 passer rating so far this year, fifth among quarterbacks.

Palmer’s composure on the field and his strength in the pocket are what fuel this offense. Larry Fitzgerald has been revived the past two weeks with five touchdown catches, and still with no running game, Palmer must lead this team the rest of the way. His injuries are hopefully past him, and this season belongs to Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals.

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