By: James “JB3” Byus III
It’s Week 17 of the 2015 NFL season, and we all know what that means: playoffs are just one week away. The Arizona “Super” Cardinals sit at 13-2, and landing at the second seed, they have clinched a first round bye in the playoffs.
We also all know that the Carolina Panthers boasted the best record in football this year so far, and are led by the top choice for MVP in Cam Newton. But, there is still one week left, and after having their fire fizzled out by a fearsome fighting Dan Quinn with his Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers conclude the season against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team with nothing to lose and a rookie quarterback chasing the Rookie of the Year Award. With the playoffs lurking in the shadows, players like Josh Norman for the Panthers said the season “has played a toll on them”, and it isn’t what fans want to hear with their team trotting into the NFC playoffs, especially with a very dangerous Arizona Cardinals, and always deadly Seattle Seahawks, who catch a whiff of blood in the water. But this article isn’t about the No. 1 seed, it’s about the Bruce Arians lead Cardinals.
Sit back and take a wonder at a list of players from times past that have traveled to Phoenix, and as I’d like to put it, be reborn again. There is Larry Fitzgerald playing at the highest level, and back to his old self, thanks to a healthy Carson Palmer boasting outrageous numbers and acting as superb leadership for this offense. Guys like Chris Johnson found a home here, and was also brought back to top form; “CJ2K” was back in action and we all saw it. Add to the mix young guys like Josh Brown, David Johnson, and Michael Floyd, and you have one high powered, aerial assault similar to that of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Some other things to ponder: this offense has 57 touchdowns and 52 punts. This team leads the league in points per game at 32.2 (racking up 483 points altogether), leads the league in total offense with 420.1 yards per game, is third in passing with 294.1 yards per game, leads the league in yards per play with 6.4, tied for league lead in first downs per game with 23.8, leads the league in third down conversion at 47 percent, leads the league in total time of possession per game with 32 minutes and 28 seconds, and also shows the best discipline with the least penalty yards for the season in the league with only 715.
Sorry guys and gals, I got a little carried away with the offensive statistics, but the fifth ranked defense in the league deserves a mention, too. These names may ring a bell and keep the opposing offenses on high alert: Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Deone Bucannon, Rashad Johnson, Calais Campbell, and Dwight Freeney. They may not the league’s best defense, but they prove themselves a solid one by holding opponents to 87.7 yards per game on the ground, placing them at fourth in the league and seventh in passing yards per game with 231.9.
All of this is made possible by who may be the best coach in football next to Bill Belichick, Bruce Arians, “the player’s coach”. Bruce achieved instant success while becoming the interim head coach in place of Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis a few years ago (after spending eight years in Pittsburgh), and with his Coach of the Year nomination, easily grabbed a head coaching job and a baller salary. Assembling a group of Pro Bowl veterans and grabbing up young, fast and solid talent, Bruce was able to put together a “super” team of Cardinals and keep the hope alive that one day a Lombardi Trophy would make its way to the city of Phoenix in the Arizona desert.
Bruce runs the “tightest ship” in the NFL, no doubt. Not only has he revived the careers of Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Chris Johnson and Dwight Freeney, but he is also building for the future, while making sure one thing remains the same: the Cardinals are always a top team in the NFC (even with Drew Stanton at quarterback). With his three-year head coaching record at 34-13 as he pushed aside the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West division title, Arians and the Cardinals are on their way to finishing the season strong. The real question is, can they go all the way?