(FootballStL) -- While just about everyone in the country is predicting the Seahawks and 49ers to be among the league's elite with the Rams challenging them for division supremacy, no one is giving the Arizona Cardinals much of a thought. They did go 5-11 a year ago and proceeded to fire head coach Ken Whisenhunt in the offseason and replace him with the Colts' Bruce Arians.
And no matter how many changes a team makes in one offseason, you're never going to be much publicity until you show it on the field.
But that doesn't mean these Cardinals won't provide the Rams with one heck of a challenge in Week 1 of the NFL season this Sunday. For one, they still have arguably the best wide receiver in the entire league. Larry Fitzgerald.
“Obviously, he’s their No. 1 receiver, and they have other playmakers around him," defensive coordinator Tim Walton said. "That’s what makes it a challenge with those guys. They do a good job in the run game and shifts and motions and things like that, and the balanced personnel group they’ve got in the run game. And the other wide-outs – I think the receivers are the strength of their team. So, that compliments him.”
And finally they've given Fitzgerald a quarterback to throw him the football. Fromer number one overall pick Carson Palmer comes over from Oakland after spending a couple seasons by the bay.
“We see a veteran quarterback obviously that knows how to play the game," Walton said. "He’s been successful a lot in his career. He has weapons around him, and (Head Coach) Bruce Arians does a good job of mixing up personnel groups and things like that. He has guys that he can get the ball to now, and they have a run game. So, when you have that weapon, that’s when he’s most effective.”
Defensively, the Cardinals are coming off a season in which they ranked 12th in the league in total defense at 341 yards allowed per game and 17th in the league in scoring defense at 22.3 points a game.
Now they've hired Todd Bowles to run the defense and make more plays. So does that mean Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will look at Bowles' past tendencies in going up against him in his first year with a new team?
“Absolutely, yeah. The good thing is you have plenty of time to prepare for the game," Schottenheimer said. "You’ve got to be careful you don’t over-prepare, but I think we have a good feel of what we expect. There’ll certainly be some things that they do that we’ll have to adjust, but that’s when you have to trust your rules and the system takes care of it.”
Probably the biggest challenge for the Rams offense will be knowing where cornerback Patrick Peterson is at all times. The third year player out of LSU had seven interceptions in 2012 - up from two as a rookie in 2011 - and is commonly looked at as one of the most dynamic athletes in the entire NFL.
“I think he’s one of the top guys in the league. You see him, even in the preseason, playing with a lot of confidence," Schottenheimer said. "He’s a guy that every time you try to throw at him, you’ve got to make sure you see what’s happening. Obviously, he’s got great recovery speed and certainly ball skills. If he gets the ball in his hands, there’s not many guys that can tackle him. I think he’s one of the top corners in the league, certainly a guy that we’ll be very smart with what we do. We’ve already talked about it – when you’re throwing to his side, you better make sure you see what he’s doing.”