After the shocking Superbowl that showed the Cardinals as a Superbowl contender, one has to wonder: Can they repeat success?
Going into the playoffs, the Cardinals were seen as one of the fluke playoff teams to make it that far, but the team and staff would prove otherwise. Game after game was met with a relentless defense not seen in the regular season, matched with the continued offensive barrage with Kurt Warner at the helm. But it just wasn't enough, and it makes the fans wonder if a repeat attempt is possible?
For too long, the Cardinals had given hope to many, only to fall short each time. Now, with the new stadium, it seems that a second wind has been put into the team with everything to prove for this upcoming season.
To succeed in their division will not necessarily be the problem. The problem will be to win games outside the division, something the team failed to do last year. I'll break down the division at least, to see which teams have a chance at stopping the Cardinals from taking the division again.
San Francisco 49ers - The team got better as the year went on, and the offensive talent only got better with the draft by attaining top wide receiver talent Michael Crabtree. After being stopped on the goal line last year by the Cardinals, the 49ers look to up the ante by holding on to coach Mike Singletary, whose hard nosed work ethic gave hope to fans in the Bay area.
Chances of taking division: With a semi-new coach and a few pieces of the puzzle missing overall, the 49ers, while still needing to improve, look to have the best chance at taking over. 70% chance.
Seattle Seahawks - After an awful run last season, the team brings in a new defensive scheme, new talent in almost virtually every position, and a new coach. With all of this going on, there's still questions about Hasselbeck and his ability to move forward after that strenuous back kept him out most of last season. On the bright side, the Seahawks bring in talents such as veteran TJ Houshmandzadeh and draft a true top talent with linebacker Aaron Curry.
Chances of taking division: A few years ago, this wouldn't even be a question, but with injuries and new coaches, etc, this team is in the rebuilding process. However, due to the fact that it IS the Seattle Seahawks and that they have alot of talent to work with, the chances are looking at 45%.
St. Louis Rams - The team performed at a low level last year and never really recovered from their losses. This year, the team is being hailed as the youngest NFL team and that's not a good thing. With rookies galore, the Rams coaching staff, which is new by the way, will look to turn things around for the team, which hasn't been the same since the Greatest Show On Turf.
Chances of taking division: The team is far from taking the division, but the competitive level that they will play at remains. With the 49ers, Seahawks, and Cardinals all looking much better overall, I can only give the rams a 20% chance of doing much to take the division.
Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals are looking to go back to back with taking their respectful division and they're doing alot to make me think they can. With the loss of offensive and defensive coaches, I would throw up red flags, but Ken Whisenhunt has control of the situation and I doubt it will hurt them immensely. The team has still got all the offensive weapons (surprisingly) to make the run a little easier, and have gone on to improve their defense as well. The team no longer looks like the Cardinals we are used to seeing, which is a fresh sight.
Chances of taking division: At the draft, Cardinals selected Chris Wells, running back. Losing Edgerrin James, while not the worst thing to happen, did hurt the team at the position. By picking up one of the best running backs in the draft, we not only solidify the position, but make opposing teams stretch the field more to cover both the run and pass. Can Chris Wells carry the load with Tim Hightower and be productive? We'll see. As long as the new stadium carries that huge home team advantage, then I'll give the Cardinals a 90% chance.
Overall, it's anyones division at this point, and it will be very interesting to watch the games unfold throughout the season, especially on the road, where the Cardinals have hurt most.