Why the Cardinals Will Give the 49ers a Run in the NFC West

Mike May@@SB_MikeMayContributor ISeptember 24, 2012

Sept. 23, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) runs the ball in the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Eagles 27 - 6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE
Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE

Yesterday's 27-6 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles has fueled a renewed optimism among Cardinals fans that maybe this team can reclaim the NFC West this season from the San Fransisco 49ers. While the road ahead is certainly difficult, it's not unreasonable to think that Arizona has a shot of being the division winners this season.

Both teams have difficult games ahead on their schedule, including games against division opponents. The St Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both look to have taken a definite step up this season, Seattle's defense especially. San Francisco still has to play the New York Giants, at New Orleans, Chicago and in New England in December. Arizona still has to face Detroit, Chicago, Green Bay and the New York Jets.

There are two areas that, if the Cardinals can keep their current pace, could very well be enough to put them ahead of San Francisco this season. One is obviously defense. The Arizona defense is ranked first overall in points allowed per game. This above any other defensive stat is the one that is most important and for obvious reasons. This defense is going to have to continue to be able to adapt as they face off against the Aaron Rodgerses and Matt Staffords of the world.

The second area is the continued development of the offense. Ryan Williams seemed to start finding more holes to run through while Kevin Kolb has continued making his case to be the franchise quarterback in Arizona. Through week three, Kolb has completed just over 64 percent of his passes for a 108.6 quarterback rating, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Now, do I expect Kolb to throw zero interceptions the rest of the season? Of course not. Do I expect that he will not have the occasional bad game? Of course he will. If you recall in a previous piece I set the numbers goal for Skelton at 20 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a completion percentage over 60. Let's apply most of this to Kolb. If Kolb can throw 25 touchdowns, keep the interceptions at or below 15 for the season and keep his current completion percentage where it is, I like what this offense is capable of this year.

Look, San Francisco is not going to lay an egg this season, I still expect ten or more wins out of that team, this isn't the NFC West of four years ago where eight or nine wins can lock up the division. Arizona is going to need to win 11 or 12 games to reclaim the NFC West. 3-0 is certainly a good start in that direction. It can be done, however, and the Cardinals thus far have shown how to do it. Just keep an eye on Dec. 30, 2012, Week 17, at the San Francisco 49ers. It may very well come down to beating the best to be the best.