(Photos courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)
Talk of Fame Network
The Arizona Cardinals finally wrestled the power back in the NFC West in 2015 – and listeners and readers of the Talk of Fame Network don’t believe the Redbirds are ready to give it back any time soon
In our weekly poll, we asked who the best team in the NFC West is and the Cardinals won with a commanding 58.8 percent of the vote. The Seattle Seahawks were the only other team to receive a vote in the poll with 41.2 percent. The Rams in a new city (Los Angeles) and the 49ers with a new coach (Chip Kelly) both suffered their first shutouts of the season.
Seattle was the class of the NFC West in 2013-14, winning back-to-back division and NFC titles. The Seahawks capped the 2013 season with their first Lombardi Trophy and would have made it two in a row had Russell Wilson not thrown that ill-advised interception on the New England goal line in the closing minutes of the next Super Bowl.
But Arizona ended Seattle’s two-year run in the West last season, capturing its first division title since 2009 with a franchise-record 13 victories and then advancing to the NFC title game. The Seahawks finished 10-6 for a wild card.
But make no mistake about it -- these are two Super Bowl contenders regardless who wins the division. There were only two NFL teams that finished in the Top 5 in both offense and defense last season. You guessed it, the Cardinals and Seahawks. Arizona finished with the No. 1 ranked offense in the NFL and the fifth-ranked defense. Seattle finished fourth in offense and second in defense.
The voting was split among the three Talk of Fame Network hosts. Ron Borges and Rick Gosselin went with the Cardinals and Clark Judge the Seahawks.
Only the NFC champion Panthers scored more points than the 489 of the Cardinals. Quarterback Carson Palmer flourished in the offense of Bruce Arians, passing for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns, with only 11 interceptions. David Johnson is an emerging star at running back, rushing for eight touchdowns and catching four more TD passes as a rookie in 2015.
Defensively, the Cardinals forced 33 turnovers, again finishing second in the NFL to the Panthers. Arizona bulked up on the defensive front for this season with the selection of tackle Robert Nkemdiche with its 2016 first-round pick.
“This is the year the Cardinals fly,” Borges said. “Bruce Arians has built a team not only to compete with Seattle but beat them.”
But this isn’t the same Seattle team that has become a playoff regular in recent seasons. Marshawn Lynch retired this offseason and four other starters moved on free agency: offensive tackle Russell Okung, guard J.R. Sweezy, pass rusher Bruce Irvin and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.
But Wilson returns, and he’s the catalyst of the Seahawks. Not only was he a Pro Bowler last season; he was the Pro Bowl MVP. During the regular season he passed for 4,024 yards, with 34 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Wilson also rushed for 533 yards and another score.
“Seattle not only is the best team in the division; it could be the best team in the NFC,” Judge said. “The Seahawks have been to two of the last three Super Bowls, have one of the most underrated quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and, of course, still retain the core of the Legion of Boom. Bottom line: They have what it takes to reach the top.”