Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer 12d

Injuries contribute to underachieving first half for Cardinals

Here's a look at the first half of the season for the Arizona Cardinals and a preview of what to expect in the second half:

First-half snapshot: Not much went right for the Cardinals in their first seven games, thanks in large part to a rash of injuries that sidelined the centerpieces of their offense. Running back David Johnson got hurt in the season opener, forcing Arizona to find a new approach on offense. Carson Palmer got hurt in Week 7, forcing Arizona to turn to Drew Stanton. Everything in between, with the exception of signing Adrian Peterson on Oct. 10 and his first game in Week 6, was far from what was expected out this team, which spent the offseason stocking its roster with veteran leadership. It doesn't matter who's in the locker room when the offense struggles. The defense has allowed more than 30 points in four games this season, and kicker Phil Dawson has missed five of his 10 field goal attempts this year. Simply put: This year's team looks worse than last year's 7-8-1 team. Grade: Bring on 2018

Midseason MVP: Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals cornerback has made a case for the NFL's defensive player of the year, so he's a natural fit for midseason MVP. He's been excellent this season. He has allowed 10 catches on 31 targets for 159 yards and a touchdown in the first seven games. The passer rating against him was 63.1. He had 10.5 cover snaps per target, which was the second best in the NFL and allowed .50 yards per cover snap, which was second best. His 31.6 cover snaps per reception is the best in the NFL.

Best moment: Adrian Peterson's 27-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Week 6 against Tampa Bay. He broke through the line, which was healthy for the first time since Week 1, and ran away from the Bucs' defense for the score. It was the moment, albeit a brief one, that gave the Cardinals a whiff of hope that their season, which up until that point had been marred by injuries, had turned for the better. Peterson looked like the powerful, dominant back he'd been throughout his career, getting stronger as the game progressed. Peterson ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in that 38-33 win.

Worst moment: It's a tough decision picking between Johnson's fractured wrist or Palmer's broken arm. Palmer's injury, however, was the worst moment of the Cardinals' first half because it not only took place in a 33-0 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams, but it deflated any hope the Cardinals had of turning the season around.

Second-half outlook: Arizona will go through the second half led by Stanton until Palmer returns and will be without Johnson possibly for the rest of the year. The key to the Cardinals' success in the second half will be with the run game. If Peterson can continue to play like he did against Tampa Bay and San Francisco, then Arizona will be in good shape. But consider this: Those two teams have combined for two wins his season, and Peterson ran for just 21 against a very good Rams defense in London. How the Cardinals' offense fares against Seattle on Thursday night should be a good indicator of how it'll play the rest of the season.

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