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Overrated, Underrated, or Rated: The Arizona Cardinals

Are they as good or bad as they look?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, I was among the first to call the Arizona Cardinals "overrated." Not only did I think it would be difficult for them to repeat their playoff appearance from 2014, but even as the season wore on, I didn't feel they were being tested enough to prove that their record was legit. In their 6-2 start, they dropped a lot of points on a lot of mediocre teams, while losing to the St. Louis (then) Rams and the Pittsburgh (with Landry Jones) Steelers.

Facing the Seattle Seahawks after the bye week though, the Cardinals took a 25-10 lead in the third quarter and came back for a 39-32 final score. There was some legitimacy to their team, mainly centering around the dangerousness of Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and John Brown in the first half, then adding a red hot Michael Floyd down the stretch. A team's ability to control the passing game -- offensively and/or defensively -- is the most important aspect of pro football right now.

Arizona finished first in net yards per pass attempt and ninth in NY/A allowed. (The Denver Broncos were first in NY/A allowed.)

It was the flaws in the Cardinals' pass defense that arrived following the injury to Tyrann Mathieu though that ultimately doomed their season. He tore his ACL in game 14, they lost to the Seahawks 36-6 in game 16, then lost 49-15 to the Carolina Panthers in game 18. That's why rumors about a massive extension for Mathieu that popped up on Monday weren't so surprising. It's a little interesting because, you know, he tore the dick out of his ACL (no confirmation on whether or not ligaments actually have dicks) but the defense was so garbagey without Mathieu that it doesn't really matter. They feel they have to take that chance.

They were demolished by Seattle in Week 17 in a game they had to win to keep their number one seed hopes alive. They gave up a hail mary touchdown pass to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs that nearly ended their season. They gave up 49 points to a Panthers team that scored 10 in the Super Bowl despite the fact that a month earlier, Arizona had one of the five best defenses in football.

But I was wrong about Arizona being overrated in 2015 and people who are calling them overrated now are just as wrong. At full strength, the Cardinals will be one of the five best teams in the NFL. So will the Seahawks, but Arizona is better right now than they were a year ago at this time.

They've added Chandler Jones, Evan Mathis, and Robert Nkemdiche. Their last two seasons have essentially been ended before they played their final game because of an injury to one of their five best players. Just as their are some players on Seattle who really can't get hurt this year, so too are the Cardinals vulnerable. But they're hardly overrated.