Are the Arizona Cardinals Contenders or Pretenders?

Shane HouseAnalyst IDecember 14, 2008

Even though the Cardinals have a playoff spot pretty much locked up, there still seems to be some things missing that keeps this team from becoming a top contender.

I mean, they got a great passing attack, one of the best kickers in the game, and a quarterback that seems to be almost unstoppable in Kurt Warner.

But even with all of that, with all of this at their disposal, this team seems to be lacking some elements that divide the pretenders from the contenders.

Here are some things that the Cardinals need to improve upon to become a playoff contender.

Running Game:

Barring some miracle resurgence from Edgerrin James, he is near the end of his career. Tim Hightower has been solid in short yardage situations, but still doesn't possess that full round game and J.J. Arrington is at best a second option. Bluntly, this team needs a running back to at least be somewhat of a danger. One of these players needs to step up in the playoffs in order to truly be a complete team.

Run Blocking:

Although this team has surprised most people by being a good-but-not-great pass blocking line, their run blocking is something that leaves a lot to be desired and is a problem that not a lot of people have taken notice of. With the playoffs approaching, this part of their game has to improve in order to give some running back a shot this post-season.

Pass Defense:

Even though the Cardinals are ranked 10th in yards allowed, that is because of their rush defense. The Cardinals pass defense is at best average. Adrian Wilson is the only All-Star on that secondary and the rest have been up-and-down all season.

The Cardinals can't sling out of every game and at some point in time will need their defense to step up. This is the part of the defense that needs to step it up the most in order for this team to make a good push this post-season.

Special Teams:

Neil Rackers is an All-Star kicker who for the most part, is consistent. But besides him, there is nothing to be overly proud of here. Besides a touchdown against St. Louis, their kick and punt return has been average.

The punting has been average and the worst is their special teams play stopping the other team. They have been atrocious as of late and if they face a team like the Bears with Hester or the Patriots with Hobbs, they will have a lot of problems.

These are all the areas that need to improve. Although at certain points in the season they have been solid, they still haven't been consistent. In order for the Cardinals to make a serious push, all these aspects of the game must both cut down mistakes, and step up in the right situations in order to be a better team