COMMENTARY | There's no question that the Arizona Cardinals are already overachieving. They're 3-2, in second place in the NFC West. Is it ludicrous to believe they might be able to carry this through the season and could actually win the division?
Let's take a look at both sides of the equation to see if the Cardinals have a chance.
WHY THE CARDINALS CAN WIN THE DIVISION
Stingy Run Defense
The Cardinals are flat-out nasty against the run. They rank No. 3 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, at just 395 through five games. They've allowed just one team to go over 100 yards (Saints in Week 3) and just got their best linebacker in Daryl Washington back on the field.
Best Receiver Tandem
I can already hear the San Francisco 49ers fans screaming out for Anquan Boldin (26 receptions/393 yards/2 touchdowns) and Vernon Davis (14-224-4), but Larry Fitzgerald (24-288-3) and Michael Floyd (21-301-0) are my choice when all else is equal.
The Cardinals still face the 49ers and Seahawks twice, but aside from that their schedule breaks down favorably. They get the banged up Falcons at home, the Texans at home and the Colts at home. They have to travel to Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Tennessee. The Cards always compete at home and those three road games aren't something to fear.
WHY THE CARDINALS CANNOT WIN THE DIVISION
In the nicest possible way I could say it, Carson Palmer just implodes at the worst times. He has very solid games, then as if his mind needs a reboot, he has a brainfart and turns the ball over. The Cardinals have thrown nine interceptions and have lost two fumbles. Averaging over two turnovers a game isn't going to win, especially when the team has to overcome being less talented than the Seahawks and 49ers.
What's the best way to beat a team that's more talented? Grind that clock with long, plodding drives that don't let the opposing offense on the field. How do you do that? With a solid rushing attack, which the Cardinals simply don't have. They rank No. 23 in rushing yards (405) and No. 26 in yards per attempt (3.5). They haven't rushed for over 100 yards as a team yet.
Wait...don't the Cardinals have one of the best returners in the game in Patrick Peterson? Yes, they do. However, every team in the NFL knows that and have taken away his ability to perform by punting out of bounds or sacrificing yards by kicking the ball higher, forcing Peterson into a fair catch. Similar to how Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears was stymied and they had to move him around, the Cardinals have had to do the same thing.
WILL THEY OR WON'T THEY?
In the end, the Cardinals are still the third best team in this division. They'll need all of the breaks to fall their way if they expect to win. Could it happen? Sure, the defense could carry them the rest of the season and the offense could do just enough. Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson could regress and hurt their teams with turnovers and/or passing inefficiency.
The Cardinals winning the division would be like hitting the state lottery. It's not totally out of the question, but I wouldn't go mortgaging your house on it.
Michael Dunlap covers the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is an NBA credentialed writer who is also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of HoopsHabit.com.
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