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Why the Cardinals are legitimate contenders to win the NFC West

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The Arizona Cardinals improved to 3-0 on Sunday after a 23-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers and have won 10 of their last 12 games dating back to last year. 

Bruce Arians has done a phenomenal job with this team considering they've had to win with Drew Stanton the past two games and have had to deal with crushing losses to the defense with Darnell Dockett and Daryl Washington out for the season. 

Why they can win the NFC West


First, let's look at the schedule. The Cardinals get the Raiders in Oakland, Rams (twice), Washington and Kansas City at home, assuming those are all winnable games, that puts them at eight wins. The rest of the schedule pits at Denver, Seattle (twice), at San Fran, Philly and Detroit at home and Dallas and Atlanta on the road, assuming they can go 4-4 in those, that puts the Birdgang at 12-4, which you'd imagine is good enough to take the division. 

Fourth Quarter/Turnover Ratio

The Birdgang has shown the capability to close out games, outscoring teams 30-0 in the fourth quarter of games this year. They are one of only four teams yet to throw an interception (New England, Cleveland, Carolina) and are a top ten team in giveaway/takeaway ratio.

Run Defense/Secondary

The league's best rush defense from a year ago is picking up right where they left off. Arizona is currently tied for the league lead in rushing yards allowed per attempt at two and are fourth overall in yards allowed (215 in three games). The secondary will continue to get better with Tyrann Mathieu getting healthy and Deone Bucanon gaining more experience game by game. Antonio Cromartie gives them added depth at corner and Tony Jefferson is starting to come into his own, leading the team in tackles. That secondary helps with a lack of pass rush, only having three sacks through the first three games.

All without Larry

Fitzgerald hasn't really been productive yet this season. He's only caught 10 of 21 targets for 107 yards and no touchdowns. The rest of the core has stepped up, with 11 different players catching passes, most notably Michael Floyd (11 rec. 252 yds) and rookie John Brown (9 rec. 109 yds, 3 TD) out of Pittsburgh State. Brown had his coming out party yesterday against the Niners with two touchdown grabs. Once Fitzgerald gets a rhythm going with whoever is under center, that adds another potent weapon to the offense that's been middle of the pack thus far.

At 3-0 and top of the division, don't be shocked if the Birdgang holds that spot at the end of Week 17.  


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