RIP 2015 Championship aspirations

Heroes and Goats: Cards at Steelers

This week we learned that the Cardinals are not a legitimate championship contender. They’re a second-tier team behind the NFL’s elite in Green Bay, New England, Cincinnati, and Denver.

It’s not bad to be second-tier, but we are what we are. There’s no thing that we do at an elite level — there’s nothing to lean on when something falls short. Green Bay can lean on Aaron Rodgers, New England can lean on their sophisticated network of spy satellites, Cincinnati can lean on their elite line play, and Denver can lean on their defense.

I had a nagging feeling coming into the weekend that this offense wasn’t as good as advertised. It had struggled at home against the Rams in the only game the defense didn’t create turnovers. The sample size of games without multiple turnovers has doubled, and again the offense was constipated in the red zone.

The season is by no means over, but the Arizona Cardinals are positioned to be a 3rd or 4th seed and have to go on the road against some better teams if everything breaks right the rest of the way — a high-profile version of the 2013 team.

Hiro

Michael Floyd, WR

Michael Floyd continues to find his groove in this offense. He’s a physical blocker on the outside and a reliable downfield and intermediate target. 5 receptions and 50 yards including a TD on 8 targets is pretty solid. I’d expect him to get more snaps as the season progresses to save Fitzgerald’s body for the postseason.

Patrick Peterson, CB

Peterson’s Comeback Player of the Year campaign continues by completely putting the clamps down on Antonio Brown. Brown averaged 8 yards per catch. Peterson is reaching the point where just lining up against an opponent effectively takes him out of the game.

John Brown, WR

The second-year wideout had a staggering 14 targets and set a career high with 196 receiving yards. Brown still has room to get better, but watching him set up opponents down the field for a potential pass interference penalty doesn’t seem fair when he still manages to haul in a 40-yard bomb.

goat

Carson Palmer, QB

The season’s second appearance of Vintage Silver and Black Carson Palmer. Palmer played excellently for your fantasy team and managed to play well enough to get the Arizona Cardinals beat. Palmer locked in on two attempts downfield to John Brown in double coverage, and they were both intercepted. Palmer also waited too long on a pick play to David Johnson that lead to a Michael Floyd OPI penalty and sabotaged a red zone trip.

James Bettcher, DC

Apparently Bettcher didn’t learn enough from Todd Bowles. With effectively the same or better personnel than last year on defense, Bettcher is completely unable to manufacture a pass rush against a team that was on its 3rd string QB and a substitute offensive tackle.

Bruce Arians, HC

9 penalties for 111 yards falls on the shoulders of the head coach. The problem with “players coaches” is that their teams don’t honor the respect extended — that’s happened off the field (Dwyer, Washington, Massie) and on the field as exemplified by a number of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

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