Can John Skelton Lead the Arizona Cardinals to the Playoffs?

John RozumCorrespondent IAugust 15, 2012

TEMPE, AZ - JUNE 13:  Quarterback John Skelton #19 of the Arizona Cardinals throws a pass as he practices in the minicamp at the team's training center facility on June 13, 2012 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

John Skelton is under a lot of pressure right now. And that pressure comes from being the expected signal-caller for the Arizona Cardinals in 2012.

According to

The Arizona Cardinals plan to start quarterback Kevin Kolb against the Oakland Raiders on Friday in their third preseason game. However, John Skelton is considered the favorite to win the job, people within the organization told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

To a certain extent, this is no surprise.

Last season, the quarterbacks were one another's reciprocals, with Kevin Kolb going just 2-6 while Skelton went 6-2. You could add another victory for Kolb in the Cards' 21-19 win over San Francisco, because despite starting Kolb, Skelton played most of the game.

So, can Skelton lead Arizona to the postseason? Yes, but let's first break him and the Cardinals down to see why and how.

Confidence Can Only Increase

Skelton managed games fairly well when given opportunities in 2011, and there's no reason he can't improve on that this fall.

Although he tossed more picks than touchdowns (11 to 14), Skelton proved he could start off strong. In winning his first two games as a starter (Rams, Eagles), he threw four scores to only two picks, had a rating of 84.25 between both contests and compiled 537 passing yards.

Unfortunately, Skelton's production hit the deck shortly thereafter, but Arizona continued to win. During the last four games, Skelton got somewhat back on track with seven touchdowns and interceptions.

Arizona closed out 3-1 in that span, and his highest moment came in the upset over San Francisco.

No, he's not going to put up eye-popping numbers. However, Arizona won much more when he was at the helm, and getting into the win column is the only thing that matters.

The Second Best of the NFC West?

Five of John Skelton's six wins came against division opponents in 2011. He split against the 49ers, swept the Rams and bested the Seahawks in Week 17.

Interestingly enough, if Skelton ends up winning the job, he'll arguably be the second-best quarterback in the NFC West. Sam Bradford took a deep step back last season—even when playing healthy—and no one is Seattle is proven just yet.

Sure, Matt Flynn had the game of his life against Detroit, but that was essentially a meaningless game against a weak defense. Skelton, on the other hand, possesses much more NFL experience by comparison.

Now, you can definitely argue the Cardinals defense was playing better against NFC West rivals as well as when Skelton was under center. Well, then why not keep Skelton under center? If it's not broken, don't bother fixing it.

Upgrades to Open the Playbook

The biggest addition to the offense is rookie wide receiver Michael Floyd.

Finishing his collegiate career as arguably the greatest receiver in Notre Dame's history, Floyd makes for an impressive complement to Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona would then have a more consistently effective ground game, solely because the Fitz-Floyd duo will force defenses to back off from blitzing and/or stacking the box.

Doing so would simply increase vulnerability, and Skelton could just toss up jump balls to the two big targets. The offensive line also got upgrades in rookies Bobby Massie, Senio Kelemete and Nate Potter.

If anything, the Cardinals now have a nice amount of depth at the line to improve pass protection and succeed more when facing short-yardage situations. The offense has become much more balanced yet potentially explosive, and it takes the pressure off Skelton to perform lights out each week.

As long as the run game is established enough to just make play action relevant, Skelton will take Arizona into January.

Follow John Rozum on Twitter.