With so much riding on what could be the final season of football for the veteran nucleus of this team, the Arizona Cardinals are honing their skills this off-season with a renewed purpose for winning and an eye on the prize. The scarring memories of last season are still open wounds to most players, as well to their loyal fans. 7-8-1. It is a place this team wants never to return to again.
The Cardinals have played in front of a sell-out crowd at University Of Phoenix Stadium for every single game since 2006 (114 games). In that time the Cardinals have two playoff appearances and one Super Bowl appearance. Winning means everything. Going back-to-back seasons with a losing record will definitely diminish the chances for the team’s remarkable sellout streak to continue. Nobody is interested in a losing NFL organization. Just ask the Cleveland Browns.
It would be easy for coach Bruce Arians, along with quarterback Carson Palmer and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, to cruise through this season, pack up at the end, cash in their chips, and just ride off into the sunset. So long, Arizona, and good riddance! But, it appears that the coach and his staff still have unfinished business to attend to. With that being said, what are the telltale signs that this upcoming NFL season will be any different for the Cardinals than last season? Or the season before that? Let’s take a look.
Arizona Cardinals Ready To Start Winning Again
“I like to quietly have the feel that I have for this team right now,” said GM Steve Keim. “I know we got competitiors. We have leaders now and I think we’re going to surprise people in the end.”
July is a very exciting month for NFL teams around the league. For the Cardinals, training camp is underway this month, the remaining home, single-purchase tickets became available on Saturday, and the first official practice is scheduled for Saturday, July 22nd. Tension levels for the truest of fans will rise even higher as we near the beginning of August and the start of the NFL preseason. Saddle up them horses, folks, this is going to be one heck of a ride!
The initial kick-off of the ProFootball Hall of Fame Bowl between the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys (August 2nd) is only a couple weeks away. Keim and Coach Arians have both made assurances that this upcoming season will be huge for the Cardinals. Last season was just a fluke. The tangible reasons for last season’s mishaps mount up like a pile of dirty clothes in the far corner of the bedroom floor. For the record, let’s just take those mishaps and tuck them away in the closet. Focusing on team positives is a much better direction to take.
“You gotta win close games,” said Coach Arians. “The NFL is all about close games. And we had won more close games than anybody in the league previous years. And last year, we lost four games that we had-three by kicks, one by just not playing smart.”
Arians has said to have been diagnosed with kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma) sometime in December of last year (2016). He also said he had a small portion of his kidney removed in February of this year. Hats off to the man and his personal struggles. If there are any questions concerning his health, Coach Arians has confirmed he is in good shape going forward.
Making a mention on azcardinals.com the head coach wrote, “Now I feel great. I’m told I’m cancer-free again. I’m ready for at least one more season of NFL football. Maybe more.”
It is the close games and whether they end in celebratory wins or big, fat losses that will make or break this team. Coach Arians is working harder than ever this off-season to assure his Cardinals capitalize in the close game senarios as well as playing a smarter game out there on the field. So many match-ups are won within the final ticks of the game clock.
If the Cardinals have any post-season plans or the mindset for a Super Bowl run, they must win at least 10 of their 16 regular-season games. Just ten wins and beating out the Seattle Seahawks (NFC West rivals) is all it takes to land a spot in the playoffs. It will be the outcome of the close game match ups that determines any play-off chances for the Cardinals, especially down the stretch. Either win the close games, or stay at home in January watching the winning teams advance on television.