The five best reasons for the Arizona Cardinals 5-1 start on the 2014 season.
5) The division power house teams have taken a step backward
Early season projections of the critics had the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers undefeated, or not losing more than one game by week seven. The hawks may be on the verge of a super-bowl hangover, while the 49ers deal with team chemistry with their head coach. Both teams start the season with identity issues, the Seahawks started in a passing style offense to utilize ex-receiver Percy Harvin. The 49ers also went more passing, allowing quarterback Colin Kaepernick to have the ball in his hands more. Both these teams have realized the error of their ways and understand that they are still power running teams. The two game lead was earned by the Cardinals play, but if these were the same two teams from a year ago this would be a different story.
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4) Team Depth at Every Position
The Cardinals have been a no excuse team as they have brought true meaning to the term “next man up” General Manger Steve Keim has done an excellent job in having quality players in place to backup starters that are currently injured. The teams standard of “one year prove it deals” for veterans have worked like a charm. The team never over spends and seems to find young talent in the draft as well. These methods allowed them to continue to plug along through a very rough time with starters out at key positions. The Cards will be even stronger mid-season and going down the stretch as they get players back healthy.
3) Aggressive Coaching
Head Coach Bruce Arians has been a breath of fresh air with his coaching style in the NFL. The second year coach does not play the conservative approach to any situation. The Cardinals are a better fourth quarter team because coach Arians does not stop his aggressiveness in play calling, in fact he gets stronger in the second half of games. Most teams get conservative when forced into third and long situations and coach to not lose games, but coach Arians calls plays to get first downs in long yardage situations. He has a very high confidence level in his offensive scheme and the team has almost gotten to the point where they are executing without mental errors, which allows Arians the use of a full playbook at crucial times. This is the same style for the defensive unit as well. The Cardinals are one of the most blitzing teams in the league, and they do it with the relentless attitude of their head coach.
2) Taking care of the ball
The Cardinals have only one interception on the year and that did not come until week seven on the year. That is a clear sign that the team has good team leadership and are taking care of the football. The offense has not been as sharp and explosive as they can be, but if you don’t turn the ball over in crucial situations a team will win more times than not. The Cards are starting to also dominate in time of possession, as they are currently 10th in the league in that category averaging 30.29 per game. The rate the team is on in turn-overs would have them on pace to finish with only three INT’s and eight fumbles on the year, that is a recipe for winning a good number of games in any environment.
1.) No one can run on them
The Cardinals have been dominant in stopping the run for the last two years, and what is even more incredible is that they have done it with two completely deferent units. Last year the team finished 1st with only allowing 84.4 per game, and had more super stars on their defense. This year with a make shift patch job, they are currently 1st place again allowing an even better mark of 72.5 yards per game. That is out-standing considering over half of the players on the defense are second and third stringers. This bodes well for this defense for years to come, and being stout against the run has been the strongest reason the Cards sit atop the division. The team has already shut down the likes of Frank Gore, Alfred Morris, and Ryan Mathews to start the season. The defense will be facing a few stronger running-backs the next few weeks with LeSean McCoy and league leading rusher DeMarco Murray. If the Cardinals can come out of this stretch with their rush defense intact, then they will be 7-1 in two weeks and will have the worlds attention.