The Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals are alike in a lot of ways. Both have been overshadowed by dynasty teams in their division. Both entered the 2018 season with first-time, defensive-minded head coaches. Both teams beat the Packers this year (couldn’t help myself).
But entering Week 14, the thing that really connects the team is their failures on the season. The Lions are 4-8, the Cardinals are 3-9. 2018 was never likely to be the year for either team, but this season has undoubtedly been a disappointment for both. So which squad will come out Sunday as the less disappointing team? Let’s take a closer look at the Cardinals.
8-8 record (3rd in the NFC West)
25th in points scored, 19th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 22nd (30th on offense, 4th on defense)
Key free agent additions: QB Sam Bradford,
OL Justin Pugh (IR) OL Andre Smith (cut), QB Mike Glennon, FB Derrick Coleman, CB Bene Benwikere (midseason cut), DE Benson Mayowa, CB Jamar Taylor (midseason cut)
Key losses: QB Carson Palmer, QB Drew Stanton, RB Adrian Peterson, WR John Brown, WR Jaron Brown, S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Justin Bethel, CB Tramon Williams
2018 NFL draft picks:
Round 1, 10 overall - QB Josh Rosen
Round 2, Pick 47 - WR Christian Kirk
Round 3, Pick 97 - C Mason Cole
Round 4, Pick 134 - RB Chase Edmonds
Round 6, Pick 182 - CB Christian Campbell
Round 7, Pick 254 - T Korey Cunningham
2017 was the Cardinals’ last ditch effort to make a championship run. With Carson Palmer at the end of his career, and Larry Fitzgerald nearing retirement himself, the Cardinals’ window was small. Unfortunately, an early season-ending injury to David Johnson completely ruined the team’s offensive identity and Bruce Arians’ final coaching year got off to a disastrous start.
Arians did a good job keeping the team’s head above water, but the Cardinals were never able to pull themselves over .500, and while the defense remained stout, the offense just wasn’t scoring any points.
So the Cardinals went full rebuild this year. New quarterback, new coaching staff, new identity. Though they hired a defensive-minded head coach in Steve Wilks, the Cardinals almost went full offense in the offseason. They got their franchise quarterback, they gave him a brand-new shiny weapon in the second round of the draft, they gave him veteran quarterbacks to teach him the way, and they got a rookie lineman to help protect him.
It took three weeks for the Rosen era to begin, but as you’ll see, things didn’t go so well in Wilks’ first season
2018 season thus far (3-9)
Week 1: Loss to Washington, 6-24
Week 2: Loss to Rams, 0-34
Week 3: Loss to Bears, 14-16
Week 4: Loss to Seahawks, 17-20
Week 5: Win over 49ers, 28-18
Week 6: Loss to Vikings, 17-27
Week 7: Loss to Broncos, 10-45
Week 8: Win over 49ers, 18-15
Week 10: Loss to Chiefs, 14-26
Week 11: Loss to Raiders, 21-23
Week 12: Loss to Chargers, 10-45
Week 12: Win over Packers, 20-17
- 32nd in points scored, 23rd in points allowed
- 32nd in DVOA (32nd on offense, 12th on defense, 15th on special teams)
The offensive revolution in Arizona has been put on hold, and there are plenty of reasons for it. Losing Bruce Arians certainly didn’t help. Starting a rookie quarterback who is currently 33rd of 34 quarterbacks in passer rating is always risky. Also, losing your entire offensive line to injury will kill just about any offense in the NFL.
Arizona Cardinals Original Starting Offensive Line is gone for the season https://t.co/nr2pZkLihe— Revenge of the Birds (@revengeofbirds) December 5, 2018
You can look at just about any offensive stat, and the Cardinals will be in the bottom 10, most likely the bottom five. Perhaps the most eye-opening of all, however, is that during an offensive revolution in the league, the Cardinals have only scored more than 20 points twice in 12 games. They have yet to score more than 28.
Defensively, this Cardinals team is still pretty good. Led by Chandler Jones and his 12.0 sacks (third most), the Cardinals’ pass defense is ranked ninth in DVOA. They’re allowing just 7.2 yards per attempt (t-ninth) and have the third-most sacks in the NFL (38).
That being said, they’re vulnerable just about everywhere else. They’re allowing 4.5 yards per carry (t-15th) and have given up more rushing touchdowns than any other team. Their secondary has only picked off six passes all year (t-26th). Though Patrick Peterson remains a stud cornerback at 28 years old (eighth in PFF grades), Arizona just cut their No. 2 corner in Bene Benwikere and the Cardinals will have to move on to their third outside corner after cutting Jamar Taylor back in mid November.
There’s certainly some reason for optimism in Arizona. They’re coming off an impressive win over the Packers in which they held the All Pro quarterback to just 4.7 yards per attempt. However, as the injuries and personnel changes continue to mount, the focus for the team has clearly shifted to next season.
Vegas line for Sunday: Lions by 2.5