The Arizona Cardinals are a week away from their regular season opener against the Detroit Lions. The Cardinals went a disappointing 7-8-1 and missed the playoffs last season.
Here are three predictions for the Cardinals this season.
#3. Carson Palmer will not finish the season as the starting quarterback
Palmer will turn 38-years-old before the end of the season and his skills have declined. Every statistic went down, from passing yards to passing touchdowns to quarterback rating, last season. Also his interceptions went up and was sacked more often.
The former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall draft pick just doesn’t have it any more. The Cardinals will have to try to shake things up and unfortunately for them that is Blaine Gabbert. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said last week that Gabbert could be a starter again.
The Cardinals will bench Palmer or the veteran will be get hurt. Either way, Gabbert will finish the season as the starter.
#2 Deone Bucannon will finish in the top 10 for tackles in the league
Bucannon was second on the team on the team with 91 tackles last season in 13 games last season. Three players tied for eighth in the league with 132 tackles to round out the top 10. That is the benchmark to consider.
Bucannon plays a hybrid safety-linebacker role for the Cardinals. The Cardinals lost three key pieces in defensive lineman Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson and linebacker Kevin Minter this offseason. Bucannon will be expected to make another jump in his career and become a leader.
The opportunities will be there for the 2014 first round draft pick. The Cardinals will not be as good on the defensive line. Plays will get to Bucannon more often.
Because the opportunities will be there, his role will expand and he will play a full 16-game season, the additional 41 tackles necessary to match last season’s top 10 is attainable for Bucannon.
#1. The Cardinals will finish last in the NFC West division
This is going to be a tough season for the Cardinals. Their aging stars will take big steps backwards and their depth is not as strong as it once was. Inconsistent play and a losing streak will eventually force the Arians to switch quarterbacks from Palmer to Gabbert and mediocre play will continue through the end of the season. A bottom 10 finish and several retirements of key offensive players will start a major rebuild for the Cardinals.