Dec 8, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington (38) celebrates with Larry Fitzgerald (11) after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Rams 30-10. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals: Contenders for the NFC West?

The Arizona Cardinals have fallen behind in the NFC West race in years past, but 2014 might be a turning-point for Bruce Arians’ squad. While the San Francisco 49ers have always had the edge, many believe it’s the Cardinals’ year to make a statement and stay in the divisional race until the end of the season.

Let’s start by understanding a simple fact: the possibility of anyone surpassing San Francisco in the season standings is unlikely. There’s little hope for the other teams around the West – but if a few things go in Arizona’s favor, it could very easily be a very close battle until the end.

Take a look at the offense. When you have a leader that can sling the ball like Carson Palmer, the possibilities in the passing game are endless. If the veteran gunslinger can keep mistakes to a minimum, this passing attack has a chance to be one of the best in the NFC.

Last year, Palmer threw for over 4,200 yards but was plagued by 22 interceptions. Keeping the decisions sharp will be crucial this year.

Not many notable names other than Larry Fitgerald (who caught a TD in the first pre-season outing, by the way) stand out on the roster, but the receiving corps is actually filled with endless potential. Names like Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn, John Brown, and John Carlson might be under the radar now, but you’ll get to know their names plenty once the season starts.

What’s to love on the offensive side of the ball is the potential for an extremely balanced play-calling scheme. The offense can really go anywhere this year, having Andre Ellington, a strong guy with devastating speed, and Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer to carry the rest of the load. The Cards will want to keep Ellington healthy this year – he’s a candidate to become a breakout star in 2014.

It’s hard to overlook the depth chart on the defense, giving that Arizona is coming into the year with one of the most impressive starting-11’s in the NFC. A mix of young (Minter, Peterson, Martin) and old (Abraham, Foote, Dockett) should translate into major success.

It’ll be interesting to see what Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles dials up for his young rookies this year. Guys like Kareem Martin and Deone Bucannon are expected to make an impact as the season presses on.

Potentially winning a game or two for Arizona this season could be the play on special teams. Adding Ted Ginn to handle return duties was a big-time move. Any offense benefits from field position, and having a guy like Ginn can give them just that.

Weigh in below with your comments and predictions on the 2014 Arizona Cardinals season.

Tags: Arizona Cardinals Carson Palmer NFC West

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