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2 Arizona Cardinals

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We can talk CARSON PALMER all we want, but if the Cardinals' offensive line doesn't improve markedly, this team has no chance. Bruce Arians's system features five-step timing drop-backs and often sends out all five eligible receivers, leaving the O-line without any blocking help. Last year Arizona allowed 127 quarterback hits, third most in the league. They've reshuffled their personnel but serious questions remain, including at left tackle, where 2015 first-rounder D.J. Humphries is taking over.

• Given that DAVID JOHNSON is, along with Le'Veon Bell, one of the best receiving backs in football (and all-around running backs period), the Cards can really pressure defenses when they go to a four-receiver, one-back set—which they did more often than all but two teams last season. In that formation they have Johnson dictating matchups out wide or in the slot, top-notch possession target LARRY FITZGERALD as a security blanket inside and three sheer speedsters (JARON BROWN, a healthy JOHN BROWN and J.J. NELSON) threatening deep. Few defenses have an answer for all of that.

• It's so impressive that Fitzgerald, 34, has cemented his Hall of Fame credentials by becoming the league's best blocking receiver late in his career. Arizona's top running play involves Fitzgerald motioning down behind two line-of-scrimmage tight ends and blocking a second-level defender at the point of attack.

• No one noticed because the Cardinals weren't winning last year, but their defense ranked third in net yards allowed per pass attempt (5.7) and also per rush attempt (3.6). It also recorded a league-high 48 sacks. But it will be difficult for Arizona to maintain that level in 2017. Five starters are gone, including emerging star safety Tony Jefferson (Ravens) and domineering defensive lineman Calais Campbell (Jaguars). To restock, the Cardinals brought in a mix of veterans (LB KARLOS DANSBY, SS ANTOINE BETHEA) and rookies (first-round ILB HAASON REDDICK from Temple and FS BUDDA BAKER, a second-rounder from Washington). Incorporating so many new starters into coordinator JAMES BETTCHER'S complex scheme could be challenging early on.

"WHEN THE OFFENSE GOES TO A FOUR-RECEIVER, ONE-BACK SET, FEW DEFENSES HAVE AN ANSWER."

SI'S 2017 PREDICTION

8-8

2016 RECORD 7-8-1

SEPT. 10

AT DET

SEPT. 17

AT IND

SEPT. 25

MONDAY

VS. DAL

OCT. 1

VS. SF

OCT. 8

AT PHI

OCT. 15

VS. TB

OCT. 22

IN LONDON

AT LAR

BYE

NOV. 5

AT SF

NOV. 9

THURSDAY

VS. SEA

NOV. 19

AT HOU

NOV. 26

VS. JAX

DEC. 3

VS. LAR

DEC. 10

VS. TEN

DEC. 17

AT WAS

DEC. 24

VS. NYG

DEC. 31

AT SEA

Position Rankings

QB

13

SKILL

6

OL

28

Weakness

FRONT 7

21

DBs

12

ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400

14. PATRICK PETERSON CB

15. DAVID JOHNSON RB

45. TYRANN MATHIEU FS

103. CHANDLER JONES OLB

108. LARRY FITZGERALD WR

155. CARSON PALMER QB

206. DEONE BUCANNON LB

221. MARKUS GOLDEN OLB

314. MIKE IUPATI G

346. JERMAINE GRESHAM TE

398. ANDRE ELLINGTON RB