Arizona Cardinals: Six keys to success in 2017

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 01: Carson Palmer
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 01: Carson Palmer /
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After a disappointing 2016 season, the Arizona Cardinals are working diligently to return to contention in 2017.

Projecting how the Arizona Cardinals’ 2017 season will unfold is a task wrought with uncertainty. To some degree this is true of all NFL teams, considering the parity that characterizes the league. The Arizona Cardinals, however, find themselves in particularly liminal territory.

Going into the 2016 season, the Cardinals had posted three consecutive winning seasons under Head Coach Bruce Arians, capped by a 13-3 record in the 2015 season. Despite a blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game, there was reason to be optimistic about 2016. The Cardinals had not experienced any significant losses in free agency, and there were narratives available to explain away the playoff collapse – Tyrann Mathieu’s injury, Carson Palmer’s dislocated finger, etc.

It wasn’t just fans who were bullish about the Cardinals. In pieces published prior to the 2016 season,’s Adam Schein and Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bedard both predicted the Cardinals would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

And then they played the games. The team sputtered along to a record of 7-8-1, thanks to horrendous special teams play, a disappearing act by receivers not named Larry, and a host of other issues that fans would prefer to forget.

Which direction will the Cardinals go in 2017? Will it be a return to contention, or another disappointing campaign? The path of the cynic is easy to find here. Injuries, an aging quarterback, and free agency losses could all lead to another disappointing season.

But this is the time of the year when hope springs eternal. Every team has the same record, and playoff aspirations have yet to be dashed for anyone. With this in mind, let’s look at a list of things that, if they go right, should result in a return to contention for the Cardinals in 2017.