As Arizonans watch the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks battle for the right to hoist the Lombardi Trophy under the bright New Jersey lights tonight, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee will be hard at work preparing to host next year’s game. In exactly 364 days, all eyes of the NFL world will be set on University of Phoenix Stadium as Super Bowl XLIX will take place in the backyard of Cardinals’ fans.
The Arizona Cardinals had a surpising 2013 season, winning 10 games and barely missing the playoffs. There were many positives that should have Cardinals fans optimistic about the possibility of their team becoming the first to play in a Super Bowl hosted by their home stadium.
Here are 5 reasons why Arizona will be in the Super Bowl next year:
1) Defense Perhaps the biggest reason Arizona was able to win 10 games last season was its defense. The Cardinals were stingy all season long, allowing just 84.4 rushing yards per game and ranking first in the NFL in that category. If you can play defense, you have a chance to win every game. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Seattle Seahawks why they’re playing in tonight’s game.
2) Emergence of Michael Floyd His emergence was another positive sign for the Cardinals last season. Floyd had 65 receptions for 1,041 yards and 5 touchdowns, including a memorable touchdown catch to give Arizona the lead during Week 16’s matchup against division foe Seattle. Floyd gives the Cardinals a big receiver that can be counted on when a big catch is needed.
3) Larry Fitzgerald As I write this, I am assuming Fitz will remain a member of the Cardinals organization. There have been rumors circulating since last offseason about whether Fitzgerald would be traded. Whether it’s through a re-structured contract or taking a pay cut (which seems highly unlikely), I think Fitz remains a Cardinal. Assuming he does, that only gives the Cardinals more flexibility in the passing game. The last couple of years, Fitzgerald’s numbers have declined considerably, but he is still regarded as a great player in the NFL. HIs leadership in the locker room will allow young receivers to grow on and off the field.
4) Arizona will have a new LT and TE who will contribute Now I can’t predict the future, but from what I saw this past season from new GM Steve Keim, it was clear to me that he would do anything required to improve the roster. Jonathan Cooper, last year’s first round draft pick, will be able to start at RT after missing this past season. The other side of the offensive line remains a huge question mark . Bradley Sowell, with all due respect, is not the answer at LT. Another disappointing position for Arizona was the TE spot. Having a reliable TE is important in the NFL for various reasons, including blocking and receiving. Somehow, someway, I think the Cardinals will have new starters in both spots who will make a difference on the offensive side of the football.
5) Running Game If my previous prediction holds, Arizona’s run game will surely improve. We saw the emergence of rookie Andre Ellington, as some fans were lobbying for Ellington to become the new starter. With an entire offseason to study the playbook and improve, I would expect Ellington to come back stronger next season and perhaps take the reigns as the main guy, especially if last season’s starter, Rashard Mendenhall, does not return.