The impossible season happened in 2008. The New England Patriots were expected to make a run at the Super Bowl, and many picked them to win the whole thing!
Then, the unthinkable happens. Tom Brady goes down in the first quarter of the first game.
The next team in line that many thought would be good were the eventual Super Bowl champions—The Pittsburgh Steelers. Many identified with their team concept and their team-first attitude.
The NFC honestly was a toss up, as many thought the Cowboys would make a run. Others thought the New York Giants would make it back, as they looked guaranteed for a long time to be back.
Nobody saw last season coming. Nobody!
The Arizona Cardinals were the laughing stock of the NFC West and, to be honest, the entire league. I'm sure a lot of you will argue with me about Oakland owning that title, but they have at least had some glory. In fact, not just some, but a lot.
The Cardinals have never even made the NFC Championship game in the modern Super Bowl era. They have been losers, they have been accustomed to losing. Losing was in their genetic code.
But the pieces just seemed to come together last year.
Their defense was still suspect, but they have without a doubt the best receiver in the world! Larry Fitzgerald was putting on a clinic every single playoff game. He was on fire—on another level.
Boldin wasn't no slouch either. He was injured yes, but he did provide a spark at times in the Super Bowl.
The defense stepped up by the play of Darnell Dockett. Warner looked like the player who won the Super Bowl MVP while playing for the St. Louis Rams. Things just seemed to click.
The question is: How do they carry over that success to next season?
A lot has to happen. For starters, whill Anquan Boldin put his personal feelings aside and be the team player he was last year?
Honestly, I truly believe the entire season rests on that verdict. Steven Breaston stepped up huge in the absence of Boldin in the four games that Boldin sat out. Breaston had a solid season, going for over 1,000 yards receiving.
Without the help from Boldin, this team could have a huge reality slap in the face. Sure they have Fitzgerald, who is out of this world, but these receivers compliment each other.
Whenever Fitzgerald is double-teamed, that obviously leaves Boldin open or in single coverage, and vice versa. These two are dynamic in their single respects, but together, they are unstoppable.
Then comes the running game. The Cardinals made a great decision and franchise upgrade by drafting Chris Wells, a clear cut steal in the draft. But was it really what they needed? We'll address that later. Wells will be a huge impact, even though the offense is pass happy, but can you really blame them?
Wells will breathe life into this running game. Hightower is not an every down back, and I see him as being more effective out of the backfield and not necessarily as a runner. He's talented and only had one year of experience, but with the release of Edgerrin James, he will be asked to be the veteran even though he may not be ready to take on that role.
The offensive line should be solid. Notice how I said, "should." These guys really aren't the best group of guys you can find.
That being said, they are at least a good unit when it comes to pass blocking. They are under average when it comes to opening up running lanes, and let's face it, up to this point Levi Brown has been a bust.
The defensive line is a solid unit led by Darnell Dockett. We're still waiting for Calais Campbell to emerge, and Alan Branch is going to have to start showing signs of the dominance he displayed while at Michigan. Bertrand Berry is a rock, but he's not getting any younger.
The linebackers are led by Karlos Dansby. He's their leader and a good player, but the others remain to be seen.
Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Monty Beisel, and Victor Hobson. I'm willing to bet that a lot of you readers have never heard of these guys. This is where the Cardinals needed to make a move, but it's not too late.
I love the draft of Chris Wells, but I really would've loved to see Ray Mauluga in a Cardinals uniform. He's ferocious, he's instinctive, he's still a little raw, but he's the spark this defense needed.
The secondary needs some work, but they aren't far off. They have one of the best safeties in all of football: Adrian Wilson. They have one of the best young talents in the game in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Antrel Rolle is making a nice transition to the safety position and they have some decent depth. But these guys need to start making plays.
With all of that being said, the reality is this.
The Cardinals must have adopted the luckiest lephrechaun. They had all the luck on their side. They played up to their potential in the playoffs and, had it not been for one drive in the Super Bowl, they would be world champions.
Is it possible to get back to the Super Bowl?
Anything is possible in the NFL. Arizona will have to be relentless and play up to their own level instead of the level that everyone is expecting them to play at.
They certainly don't have an easy road. They have home games against San Fransisco, Indianapolis, Houston, Carolina, Seattle, Minnesota, St. Louis and Green Bay.
They go on the road against Jacksonville, Seattle, New York Giants, Chicago, St. Louis, Tennessee, San Fransisco and Detroit.
The road back to the Super Bowl will be hard. Everyone will be keying on Fitzgerald this year. It's up to their offensive line to protect him. It's up to the defense to make big plays. They can still make some big moves.
I would recommend them signing a veteran defensive player such as Derrick Brooks. It might not be a stretch to check out left tackle Levi Jones or possibly right tackle Jon Runyan, but the Cardinals aren't known for spending money.
We'll have to wait and see how the season turns out, but it's not impossible for the Cardinals to make a nice run at the Super Bowl. They shouldn't go back to their losing ways, and Kurt Warner is out to prove that the big contract he signed for two years isn't going to go to waste.
Sorry, Matt Leinart. You'll be riding the bench and holding the clipboard for another couple of years.
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