The hard, hard NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on July 21, 2014 – 10:39 am

Some NFL training camps are underway. The Cardinals get started themselves by the end of the week, with the team’s “Quarterback School” going on in a couple of days. The season is here. Many believe the Cardinals — including those who work at 8701 South Hardy — are going to be competing for a playoff spot again this season. It makes a lot of sense. But the raw reality of the division is also apparent, driven home this morning by Peter King’s initial “Fine Fifteen” ranking in the NFL.

King has the Cardinals 11th in the NFL, not altogether a bad spot (and about where many of these types of things put the Cards). There are 12 playoff teams in the NFL, so conferences aside, there is the thought the Cards belong in the postseason. But it is interesting to note that, if King’s rankings were to hold, the Cardinals would also be the last place team in the NFC West.

He has Seattle No. 1 and San Francisco No. 3, and also as St. Louis as No. 10. In the end, such rankings mean little, because they play the games on the field and not on paper and yada, yada, yada. But it does underscore what everyone talks about when it comes to the “NFC Best.” The division still plays a role in your season, although not as big as it once did — you can in theory go winless in your division and still finish with 10 victories. Last year, the Cardinals lamented their 2-4 division record, especially two close losses to the 49ers they felt were within their grasp.

It makes for an interesting question: Is it better to have your division be the best in football? Or would it be better to harken back to the days of 2008-2010, when the Cards not only were able to see lesser teams around them but in the case of 2010, remain in the hunt for the division title late in the year even though it was a bad year? Carson Palmer votes for the way it is now. “It’s a great challenge the competition within the division,” Palmer told NFL Network. “I think it really kind of hardens you as the season goes on. … It’s a grind getting through this division, but I think with Seattle and San Francisco getting to the championship game, a lot of that has to do with playing within this division. It gives you an edge.”


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27 Responses to “The hard, hard NFC West”

  1. By D on Jul 21, 2014 | Reply

    They all should do these lists after training camp and after all preseason games..after the injuries that will occur unfortunately to some key players…I would take Carson over Sam B if both teams come out healthy. I think our new Left Tackle will make a big difference this year vs the Rams pass rush.
    The Rams front 4 appear strong, but they have weak WR, LB and Secondary.
    Just have to put some pressure on Sam and the turnovers will begin…

  2. By joe67 on Jul 21, 2014 | Reply

    Gonna be TUFF! I think we will surprise a few people. Could very well boil down to which team can stay the healthiest

  3. By jeffgollin on Jul 21, 2014 | Reply

    We can’t control the caliber of competition in our division from year to year. What we can control is our own level of play. Our focus should be in getting the most out of every player, playing hard for 60 minutes in every game and letting what happens in the the rest of the division take care of itself.

    Playing woulda-coulda about what happens in our division is tantamount to driving a car using the rear view mirror instead of the windshield.

  4. By clssylssy on Jul 21, 2014 | Reply

    I totally agree with Palmer and in years past, even when we weren’t considered much of a threat, the Cards have tended to play up to our competition, in some instances even being the victorious underdog. Likewise, teams considered a slam dunk have often proven our undoing as we didn’t even begin to pay attention until the 3rd or even 4th quarter. Last season the Cards seemed to play a more consistent game and getting off to a strong start caught unsuspecting and overconfident teams off guard (Seattle) never to regain their equilibrium, which is the way I hope we play this year.
    While I don’t put much stock into Power Rankings of any kind, I was a little surprised that the Cards didn’t finish in the top 10. Again, these are opinion pieces and opinions always vary even among the “experts” . In this comatose time of year for actual football news even Mike Florio admitted these Power Rankings were often to get the fans stirred up and as a basis for chatter (board hits). Bottom line is we know where our strengths lie, we have a wile coach seasoned to spot and exploit opponent weaknesses, and we have a group of players with the heart of lions and hungry for victory. We just have to win one game at a a time so let’s BRING IT! START STRONG & GET’R’DONE!

  5. By the way - Dr. G. on Jul 21, 2014 | Reply

    @#%$@% — Somehow, I get a really weird feeling that Seattle and SFran will not repeat their stellar 2013 performances in 2014… and the Rams will represent well…don’t know just why….have to see…

    Clssy – There is a sense that your endeavor to bring things to the present is coming around, but the ((in years past)) comment slipped in there, didn’t it. This team looks absolutely nada like the past… please become a believer…

    A side observation despite little interest in the groupie stuff – – Over the weekend, Carson Palmer represented himself very well in the Tahoe golf outing. He proved that he is indeed a legitimate 3 handicap. The scoring system ((Stableford Modified)) is very forgiving to the high handicap participants to be able to escape embarrassment with max scores allowed and posted. As Darren posted earlier, PP was one of the best dressed, and thank goodness that was some consolation. Palmer could probably spot him 35+ strokes and still take all the money. PP’s forte is still to be one of the best CB’s in the league, and lessons on the links are indicated… He did look good!

    Looking forward to Camp Cardinals….

  6. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Jul 21, 2014 | Reply

    Our Cards will kick ass and take names this season. Lets line up and hit…

  7. By cards4sb on Jul 21, 2014 | Reply

    Lets ask ourselves this: How likely is it that San Fran returns to the NFC championship game for a fourth year in a row? Will the Seahawks get so full of themselves and make it difficult on themselves to repeat? Just think about it… This division is exceptionally hard which is right where we want to be. If the Cards get in the playoffs they most certainly won’t be regarded as one of the worst playoff teams in NFL history. There won’t be any sort of asterik next to the Super Bowl title should they win it. This team will probably need to win 12 games to get in. Will it be extremely hard? You bet. But, consider this. Should the Cardinals have beaten St. Louis in week one last year and beaten Philly in Philly last year, guess what, they are 12-4 and were in and the Saints are sitting at home. After a full season under Arians and a better understanding of what he wants and they know what their doing now, there is a strong possibility they get those games back this year. They also know they can beat San Fran and Seattle. With a bunch of gadget plays the 9ers jumped to a 17-0 lead in that final game and then when they had to buckle down and play football they were outscored 20-6. Yet still a loss, but we only needed a couple more minutes. And, they knew that. You could tell by their exit interviews. As people have mentioned injuries will be a factor and so on but why can’t the Cards be a 12-4, 13-3 team? I’m so sick of hearing about San Fran this and Seattle that like they can’t be beat out. Prehaps the Cards are not only good enough but dominant. We will never know until the ball is kicked off in 2014. They have shown that it is possible but things could fall apart as well (2012). Arians, Keim and Bidwill have got something special going on here and all of US who follow this team know it. Cards fans rejoice 2014 just might be the year of the CARDINAL.

  8. By Scott H on Jul 21, 2014 | Reply

    Whatever, Mr King, but I just don’t see the Rams being better than the Cards in this division. Not that I discount the Rams. I don’t. That would be foolish given they’ve beaten the Cardinals more often than not in recent years AND their defense ( like everyone else in this division ) is among the best in the league.

    But I just don’t buy into Sam Bradford and, well, I just can’t overlook what is still the most important position in the NFL. IMHO, he is exactly the kind of very average QB who can hold a team with a dominant defense back. With that said, however, the same could happen with the Cardinals if Palmer is throwing as many INT as TD’s.

    One thing is for sure – the last place team in this division will be a damn good team, regardless of who it is. The last place team in this division could actually have a winning record. The NFC West might just be historically good this year. Geez….imagine the bottom 2 teams in the NFC West missing the playoffs this year with records better than teams winning divisions elsewhere in the conference. NOT out of the question. And if anything is EVER gonna prompt a change in the playoff format…that might do it. It would just suck for the Cardinals to be one of those teams.

    I think you could break up the NFC West up, send each team to a different division and they might ALL make the playoffs this year, AT LEAST 3 of them as a division winner.

  9. By georgiebird on Jul 21, 2014 | Reply

    Double edge sword. While most Cards’ fans lament the toughness of the NFC West. The NFC West has the best coaches, teams and players.
    But it wasn’t long ago that the NFC West had the worst coaches, teams and players. And that combination was a big impetus in getting the Cards to the SB.

  10. By Cody Zarr on Jul 21, 2014 | Reply


    You actually asked a question, and I’m disappointed it hasn’t been answered, because you don’t ask many questions. I could be wrong because I have a disdain for reading ill conceived drivel with a lack of punctuation and proper paragraph usage, someone may have answered previously, but here’s my answer.

    It is better to be in the best division in football, period. Any competitor will tell you that a contest with an inferior foe may be good for a temporary ego boost, but in the long run everyone knows the best man always wins. It’s far better to play against teams that make you better than teams that lull you into a sense of complacency.

    So, long story short. I’m glad to be in one of the most competitive divisions of football currently. It will only make us better as a team to face worthy opponents, especially with Mr. Arians and Mr. Keim at the helm.

  11. By JohnnyBluenose on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

    No doubt about it, it’s very tough. But if Palmer can stay healthy, as he did last year, we have a chance. We overcame injuries last year but if Palmer goes down I think we are in trouble. As were the Packers last year without Rodgers. For me this year it’s all about Palmer.

  12. By clssylssy on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

    Seattle knows how to put a good product on the field and I don’t know how anyone can dispute their toughness and level of skill. Most of the time, it’s the fan base with any team that gives the public a dislike for the team whether it be the Cowboys, Broncos, Patriots, Saints, 9ers or Seahawks. Seattle’s marketing department created the 12th man phenomenon (would be considered genius if we thought of it first) that so many find obnoxious but, players and real fans look past the franchise to the play on the field. For nearly my entire life, I have detested the 9ers going back to Steve Young days because of their obnoxious fans’ detestable behavior when visiting Arrowhead; but, with maturity I have gained an appreciation for the quality of teams they have produced and their legacy to the game overall. I find it an honor to be in the same division as both the Seahawks and the 9ers and know that any of our teams in the West are still better than most in other divisions.
    There is no denying that this is a different team than we had last season but, nobody has seen how we will stack up…YET. The 9ers defense appears to have lost some punch with player suspensions and player loss to free agency. Like the Cards, they have added more skill to their offense. I don’t see the Seahawks suffering the “Superbowl curse” and falling off the map; unlike most Champs, they did not loose the majority of their playmakers and still have one of the best QBs in the league. I think the Cards and the 9ers are pretty even and as we have seen upsets occur on any given Sunday. At this point in time, I don’t see the Rams pulling ahead although they have some really good up and coming talent and could become a worry in another year but then, they may have a different QB to adjust to? The NFC West has three of the best coaches in the NFL as playcallers and in the end, I believe it will be a matter of who can stay healthiest and win the coaching face off. STAY HEALTHY MEN & START STRONG!

  13. By the way - Dr. G. on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

    Cards4sb – Your position is very well stated. It also amplifies mine — repeating – “” — Somehow, I get a really weird feeling that Seattle and SFran will not repeat their stellar 2013 performances in 2014… and the Rams will represent well”” This division will still be formidable though.
    I could have gone thru the details as you did, but it is conjecture at this point – the games must be played… But… if one is a “conservative” gambler, those facts before us point to the proverbial “duck.” The Cards, as you suggest, are positioning for an even better year in 2014…it just makes sense.

    ScottH – Good post — Mathematically, 3 of the NFC West could be in the playoffs! ((4 divisions and 2 w/best Conf. records.)) You knew that, huh? It could have happened last year.

    Zarr – – Before you take any poster’s writing skills to a personal level, you must have a professional writer review your literary competence. ((Pot Kettle?))

    4 days Cards Fans – maybe see at the stadium….

  14. By Eric G on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

    Peter King is one of the worst prognosticators. He always has been. I like that they are in a tough division. If they want to be the best, they have to beat the best. No excuses. I can’t wait to see what unfolds this year week by week.

  15. By the way - Dr. G. on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

    Darren – Another review of the regular season schedule reminds us that we have only one (1) Division contest before week ten (10). There are pros and cons that can be noted. I would like to hear your and/or the coaching staff’s take on this if you have asked them.

    The 2nd half appears to be ultimately more important than the 1st. Your thoughts?

    Thanks again….

  16. By Darren Urban on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

    Dr. G —

    RE: first half/second half.

    Disagree, in part because there seem to be some very winnable games in the first half. You lay an egg over those eight, the last eight won’t matter.

  17. By the way - Dr. G. on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

    Darren – I agree that looking at the 1st nine games, 6-3 seems very reasonable, maybe 7-2…and we must take care of business there. But, I think we could lay an egg or two and still bring it home. I see your point, but you surely would agree that the division//conference wins are the most important. 5 of 6 of our division games are in the last 8 games. That’s what buried us last year despite our record… I’m torn on this…. we simply must be prepared all season, huh? Be well…

  18. By Andy Kw on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

    Lets analyze the biggest strengths, improvements and weaknesses of each NFC West team:
    -Strengths: WR, DL, DB
    We already had great possession WRs with Fitzgerald and Floyd. We lacked speed last season at Wide Receiver and we capitalized in FA with Ted Ginn Jr and in the draft with WR John Brown. Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, and Dan Williams all return. Our depth gets better with Rucker, Stinson and Martin. Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, Tyrann Mathieu, and Deone Bucannon makes our DB position one of the best in the league.
    -Improvements: WR, TE, OL, DB
    We added needed speed in proven veteran Ted Ginn Jr and rookie John Brown. We added John Carlson from FA and Troy Niklas in the draft. Jake Ballard is back to 100% health and Rob Housler provides some nice speed. Jared Veldheer and Jonathan Cooper makes the left side of the OL as good as any in the league.The Right Side is the side to worry about but they all have good potential. We added SS Deone Bucannon and Tony Jefferson provides nice depth. Most improved position is definitely the DB position.
    -Weaknesses: ILB
    We lost our biggest strengths of 2013 which was Dansby and Washington. But now, we can’t say it is the weakest position but it is the position with the most question. Can Kevin Minter play to his potential? Will Larry Foote get back to his pre-injury form? Will Ernie Sims lose his bust label?

    St. Louis:
    -Strengths: OL, DL, LB
    They already had a decent OL with Jake Long and Scott Wells. With the addition of 1st Round Pick Greg Robinson, their OL could be one of the best in the league. There is no question that the DL is in contention of being the best in the league and probably even the most improved. Aaron Donald added to the mix makes their Starting Core great. Alex Carrington added as depth makes their DL even scary. Laurinaitis, Ogletree are really good. Dunbar, idk if he is still with the team but he is a skilled player on the gield.
    -Improvements: QB, RB
    Shaun Hill has good experience that the team needed. Clemens was not a proven backup and it showed last season. If Bradford goes down again, they at least have good insurance. Tre Mason with the Mix of starter Zac Stacy makes their offense a better unit.
    -Weaknesses: WR, DB
    All of their WR have good potential but none of them are proven players. Their CB and S positions are a mess. Jenkins, and McDonald are the players that have high potential but have yet to maximize their skills. The Depth and other starters are just terrible. Can’t believe they didn’t address their biggest weakness.
    San Francisco:
    -Strengths: WR, OL, LB
    OL and LB position is already known as the best in the league. Crabtree and Boldin are veterans that play well when healthy.
    -Improvements: RB, WR
    Stevie Johnson and Bruce Ellington boosts their WR core by miles. RB position depth was never questioned. Kendall Hunter, Carlos Hyde, LaMichael James, and Marcus Lattimore are the best group of depth behind Frank Gore.
    -Weaknesses: CB
    They lost their starter in Carlos Rogers. The CB position needs to be healthy and their players aren’t proven. Chris Culliver and Trumaine Brock need to remain healthy. If they can stay healthy, their CB unit should be decent at best.
    -Strengths: Defense
    Their DEF is the same and it still remains one of the best overall in each position.
    -Improvements: None
    -Weaknesses: OL
    They lost 2 starters in the OL. This position is injury prone. Okung, Unger, and Carpenter are just not the same players they use to be. They lost Breno G and Paul McQuistan.

  19. By Dre on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

    It work for Payton and Brady playing day in and out in a weak division. That’s why there stats are so blown up.

  20. By Mike Ellingboe on Jul 23, 2014 | Reply

    Have to agree with Palmer, it’s better to be tested before the playoffs roll around. To those who want to point to our Super Bowl run, remember that they were remarkably lucky in how the playoffs unfolded that year. The one upside to our weak division is we did get a first round home game (Atlanta). We then drew a break when matched up with Carolina (warm weather game), and finished out with the Eagles upsetting the Giants and giving us our second playoff home game. With all due respect to that team, there’s no way we would have walked into NY in January and moved on to the Super Bowl – as evidenced by our abysmally awful performances in Philadelphia and New England a few weeks prior (and our generally terrible road play, period, that season).

    On the other side of the coin, the only way to move out of this division is to be the best team in football. Just like last year, you have to like the chances of whoever is left standing after these four settle their differences.

  21. By br in nc on Jul 23, 2014 | Reply

    Been harping on here about the Rams, as have a few other posters, would not surprise me at all if St Louis ends up in 2nd place all by their lonesome self. It would shock me if they took the division, but in my humble opinion the NFC BEST only got BETTER in the off season, with the exception of San Fran…. I just dont think they improved and they lost some through free agency. But if there RB they drafted 2 years ago (Lattimore out of South Carolina) is able to return to form after suffering 2 blowouts on his knees, 1 very gruesome blowout, then it could be a different story, as well the Rams are very young and the multitude of draft picks they had the last 2 years mostly thanks to the Washington Foreskins and RGIII, hopefully it will take them a couple of seasons to jell and put it all together. As for Seattle, they didnt make much of a splash either, as well being the Champions puts a big bullseye on them and every team is going to step up their game and give them their best shot and then some! And as for our beloved Cardinals, we (I) have to be honest with myself and try and set my bias aside, but the Cards have some question marks/areas of concern, Dwash really put us in a huge bind, our ILB’s are a concern, no more everydown ILB’s, will they be as strong against the pass? Covering those annoying TE’s, is the Rookie SS the answer? Will the 2 key players return good as new from injury and continue to improve and impress? Right side of the O-Line is Watford ready, and who replaces Winston at RT? Is Housler going to finally have his big breakout year that has been predicted over and over and over, or is Housler even a Cardinal after final cuts? Has the running game improved over last years, it needs to improve drastically especially between the tackles, is it Hughes or Taylor that brings huge improvement to that aspect, or neither? And last but not least, something that every team must ask themselves…in Cardinals case the question is, God forbid, but if Carson Palmer goes down with an injury can Drew Stanton step in and lead the (his) team, whats it been, 2 or 3 years since he has taken a snap or thrown a pass in a regular season game? I know it looks like a buttload of questions for the Cardinals to answer, but the other teams have just as many if not more to answer, I just wasnt going to waste my time or your time (which if you are reading this book of a reply, I have probably wasted enough of your time already…at least in your mind). I purposely left the ??? unanswered, I will give my feeble opinion/answers later, just wanted to throw this out and get all you posters brain housing groups refired and get the reply’s rolling like they were prior to the draft. After all, its almost FOOTBALL SEASON, Ladies & Gents!!! Thanks for bearing with me and reading, I have to get as much posting in as I am back on active duty Marine Corps and very, very soon I will be departing on my 6th all expenses paid trip courtesy of Uncle Sam to an undisclosed hotspot in a certain violent and unstable region across the big pond! (sorry, but not allowed to come right out and say it, but operational security prohibits me from saying to much, plus I would NEVER endanger fellow Marines lives! As you can see I tend to ramble when the stress level begins to rise, and I do apologize to all of my fellow Cardinal fans!! Heres to home field advantage for this seasons Super Bowl…..GO CARDS!!!

  22. By Scott H on Jul 23, 2014 | Reply

    Eric G –

    Yeah, I hear ya about King. For me, he’s kinda like Mel Kiper. He’s just a name that people know because he’s been around so long. But it’s been a LONG time since either one of then said anything that mattered. Both of their acts are totally played out. And Kiper’s hair is SOOOO bad at this point, I can’t believe ESPN keeps putting him on the air during the draft. They need to re-do that whole thing.

    Peter King clearly fancies himself as an expert and someone who’s opinion we need. Hate to tall him, but…he ain’t.

  23. By clssylssy on Jul 23, 2014 | Reply

    Wow! br in NC brought up a point that I have been asking myself in the “What if’s” line of thinking…that being, now that we have become comfortable with Palmer and have found a rhythm, what REALLY is our situation if Palmer were to go down? While I know that BA keeps saying how ready Drew Stanton is to step in, nobody has actually seen him play outside of preseason snaps, Lindley is mostly a bad memory (kinda brutal and not probably fair but true) and Thomas hasn’t been here long enough to find his locker! It should be noted however, that many teams are in our same situation with backup QB strength or perhaps this is the best kept “secret” amongs teams in the NFL? Who would backup Drew? Rogers? Peyton? (Osweiller was drafted at the same time as Nick Foles) Bradford? Kaepernick? Wilson? We all saw what happened to the Colts and the memory of cycling through an entire QB corp after an impressive 4-0 start, is still a little too fresh to be taken lightly.
    Everyone goes into the season with high hopes and feeling bulletproof however, I don’t think security at the backup level can ever be excessive…I believe in insurance! An assessment of the various team’s depth strength now that we’ve had a preview of our competition might make for an interesting post. *Raising questions doesn’t make me a nonbeliever!) GO CARDS!

  24. By georgiebird on Jul 23, 2014 | Reply

    If all goes real well in 2014, the Cards could win 11 games. If things (injuries and close games) go bad, the Cards will win 4 games. This sets up the official over/under for the Cards at 7.5 games.
    If the status quo remains after all the preseason games are over, it seems the Cardinals present a great betting opportunity for all the optimistic Cardinals’ fans- as well as the pessimistic ones. What time is that Sept 3 flight to Las Vegas.

  25. By Scott H on Jul 23, 2014 | Reply

    I don’t really WANT to see Drew Stanton in there at QB because we are clearly the best we can be with Palmer. But until I saw otherwise, I would not write the season off if Stanton had to take over at some point. BA seems to like him and, well, that is good enough for me at this point. I could not feel optimistic if we reached the point of either Lindley or the rookie needing to take over. I would consider the season over at that point. But…ya never know. The Seahawks thought Matt Flynn was their future and look how that went. He never saw the field as a Seahawk and less than two years later, they were winning a SB with a 2nd year QB.

    God, I hate the Seahawks…..

  26. By Dr. G. on Jul 23, 2014 | Reply

    Hey Cards Fans, — Now you’re talking…. After almost 2 years of our discussion, and my pleadings among some others to draft a QB, it appears that there is general agreement in the QB status of our team. Unless there are NO questions at the backups, the QB position needs to be improved every year when possible. And we need a protege to Palmer.

    BA said he was happy with whom he had nearly all the time he has been here up until the drafting of Thomas. ((I interpret that as strategically calming any controversy, though he did not believe it himself)) As stated earlier in this blog, we really can’t anticipate what would happen if Palmer got a rattle snake bite on his throwing arm. Stanton would probably do OK in a conservative run type game. I am thinking that Lindley will be displaced…no way they keep 4 QB’s…

    But….Palmer’s incredible durability during his entire career encourages optimism.. Be well Cards Fans… Semper Fi bc…

  27. By Cody Zarr on Jul 26, 2014 | Reply

    I wouldn’t say it’s quite pot/kettle, but it certainly was silly of me to put that up. I apologize.

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