Now that we will officially be having football this fall, it comes time for my annual search for a new team to follow once the Vikings eventually fall out of contention in Week 7.
Since no one likes bandwagoners, I will not be following the Colts or Patriots or some awful team from Wisconsin. Instead, I will be looking for a nice sleeper team to pick up and ride into the Wild Card round in January.
Last year I smartly followed the Buccaneers, mostly because I was a big fan of Josh Freeman, and I even made a case for him to be MVP last year.
I’ll be looking at teams with a record of 6-10 or worse from the 2010 season. This leaves me to pick from Detroit, Dallas, Washington, Carolina, San Francisco, Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Houston, Tennessee and Denver.
— Detroit is automatically out, as they are already America’s sleeper team, and for good reason. They are a fun, young team. Unfortunately they won’t make the playoffs until 2012.
— No one likes rooting for Dallas to do well, and Washington is a hopeless franchise.
— San Francisco blew their sleeper chance last year and will need a year to adjust to another new head coach.
— Buffalo can’t win until they learn how to draft good players.
— Cleveland is already my 2013 sleeper.
— Cincinnati needs to resolve its QB (and personnel, and head coach, and owner) situation before they can contend.
— Houston will always be a popular pick until they actually make the playoffs (which they will this year, write it down).
— Tennessee doesn’t have a QB and Denver can’t figure out what kind of team they want to have.
That leaves me with one team…the Arizona Cardinals! Come on down!
Not only do they play in the NFC West, the most wide open conference in the NFL, but they also benefit from finishing fourth in said division last year, making their schedule that much easier. Seattle doesn’t look like a team that will contend this year, especially when they are giving Tarvaris Jackson $8 million a year to “play” quarterback. San Francisco is in transition again, leaving a very young St. Louis team as the front runner of the NFC West. But like I said already, who likes picking the front runner?
The Cardinals have 12 very winnable games this season. Games at home against the Giants in Week 4, home against Pittsburgh in Week 7, at Baltimore Week 8 and at Philadelphia Week 10 as the only real tough games on their schedule. Unfortunately the back-to-back games against the Steelers and the Ravens come right after their bye week, and three of their first five games of the season are on the road. There is a bright side however, as four of their last five games are at home against Dallas, San Francisco, Cleveland and Seattle.
Assuming they acquire Kevin Kolb as everyone expects them too, the Cardinals will instantly improve their worst position over last year and give Larry Fitzgerald someone to actually throw him the ball. As we saw last year in the NFC West, even a mediocre team with a mediocre QB can win the division. Additions of Patrick Peterson and Ryan Williams in the draft can only help them.
Need more incentive to follow the Cardinals? They are +300 to win the NFC West. It’s always a lot easier to root for a team when they can (will) triple your money.