Is this the season the Arizona Cardinals capture the NFC West crown?
The Red Birds were in the playoff hunt until the final game of the 2013 season when they dropped a home contest to the 49ers. They made a five-game improvement from the previous season, finishing with a 10-6 record.
Arizona was the only team to beat Super Bowl champion Seattle at Century Link Field, the loudest stadium in the NFL. The Cards have a lot of momentum heading into the 2014 campaign but things just got a lot tougher now that they lost Darnell Dockett for the season with a torn ACL.
No one said it was going to be easy. So is this year the Cardinals break through?
"The time is now," Arizona's star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald told espn.com. "We know we have to take care of our division first. That's the fastest way to get in the playoffs. That's where our goal is — to win the NFC West."
Last offseason's overhaul of the Red Birds roster was looked at as a bridge from one coaching regime to another. This year, however, the Cardinals' offseason moves have been geared to filling specific needs that can put them over the hump.
"We're built to win now," Fitzgerald explained. "We have a tough division but I think we line up and match up pretty well with everybody we face."
The additions of left tackle Jared Veldheer, cornerback Antonio Cromartie and wide receiver Ted Ginn coupled with last season's strong finish, have set the bar higher than it's been in a few seasons. For Fitzgerald, who's entering his 11th season, this year's team is the closest to being as good as Arizona's 2008 squad that lost in the Super Bowl to Pittsburgh since that run.
"The way we finished last year," Fitzgerald said, "the way we're built to be dominant on both fronts — offensive and defensive lines — the quarterback that we have, the skill players that we have surrounding him, I think gives us a great chance to go out and compete at the highest level."
That's music to the ears of Arizona Cardinals fans.
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