Arizona Cardinals: Why the Team Will Miss the NFL Playoffs, Despite Strong Start

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Correspondent IIOctober 20, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 09:  Quarterback John Skelton #19 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts during the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 9, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Carindals defeated the Seahawks 20-16.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

How many games were the Arizona Cardinals expected to win this year? Four, maybe five?

The Cardinals started the year 4-0, surprising everyone despite the fact that they waited until the last minute to name a starting quarterback. It wasn't the most desirable choice, but John Skelton beat out Kevin Kolb for the job. Unfortunately, Skelton was injured late in the season opener against Seattle.

In came Kolb, who rallied the team for a late touchdown pass to beat the Seahawks. On the season, Kolb has tried to live up to the lucrative contract the Cards gave him last year, throwing for 1,169 yards and eight touchdowns while helping the team get wins over New England, Philadelphia and Miami.

Late in the fourth quarter against Buffalo last week, Kolb was hit and stayed on the field for a few moments. It was later reported that Kolb suffered a rib injury and will miss several games, forcing the team to turn to Skelton as its starter going forward.

Therein lies just one of the reasons the Cardinals will miss the playoffs this year, despite their encouraging start.

Skelton threw an interception in overtime last Sunday that led to the Bills stealing a win on the road. Now Skelton, who has completed just 42 percent of his passes this season, must gain the confidence of his teammates.

The offensive line has been horrific, giving up an NFL-leading 28 sacks. Skelton isn't as mobile as Kolb and won't be able to evade pressure the way Kolb does, so that number will likely continue to get worse.

With Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams suffering injuries, the team has been one of the league's worst rushing teams. Against the Bills, William Powell was able to gain 70 yards on 13 carries, a 5.4-yard average. Yet the team insisted on giving LaRod Stephens-Howling 11 carries, on which he gained just 22 yards, a 2-yard average.

Then there is the remainder of Arizona's schedule. After back-to-back losses to the Rams and Bills, their 4-0 start is starting to be forgotten. They still face having to play the 49ers twice while going on the road to play Minnesota, Green Bay, Atlanta, Seattle and the New York Jets. They have home games against both Detroit and Chicago.

On paper, that is a very tough schedule.

Whether it's Skelton or Kolb who lines up under center, the offensive line isn't going to be able to protect them. Without establishing a running game, teams will be sending speed rushers at the quarterback on nearly every down.

The defense will have their work cut out for them to keep the team in the game, but against some of the high-powered offenses they will face, that will be a task that will prove to be too tough.

The Cardinals got hopes up in Arizona by winning their first four games, but they won't win very many more than that, making preseason predictions look accurate once the final win-loss record is tallied.

Maybe in the 2013 draft they can find a franchise quarterback, or at least some better offensive linemen to protect the ones they have.