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Head coach Bruce Arians didn't leave anything open to interpretation when he laid out the goal for the Arizona Cardinals at the end of the preseason.

"Let's get ready to put a ring on our finger," Arians said.

It was a bold comment, in keeping with his personality. He isn't backing down as the Cardinals prepare to open the 2017 season against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. 

View photos of the starters for the Arizona Cardinals.

"That's our goal every year," Arians said Wednesday in a conference-call interview. "If you're not setting out to win it, you're in the wrong business.

"We set that goal, then we quit talking about it and get to work."

The Cardinals have had a good run in Arians' four seasons as head coach. They had three straight seasons of double-digit wins – 10-6, 11-5 and 13-3 from 2013-15 – before dropping back to 7-8-1 last year.

The 2015 Cardinals got to the NFC Championship, where a loss to the Panthers kept them from reaching Super Bowl 50, and they're legitimate playoff contenders again.

Here's how they shape up on offense, defense and special teams and other areas of note.

Offense -- old hands, playmakers: Young and old, the Cardinals have difference-makers.

Second-year running back David Johnson has emerged as a star and dual threat as a runner and receiver. Johnson led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last year (2,118), total touchdowns with 20 – 16 rushing, four receiving – and was No. 1 among backs in receptions (80) and receiving yards (879) to go with his 1,239 yards rushing.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who turned 34 on Aug. 31, may have lost a step as he goes into his 14th season, but he led the NFL in receptions last year with 107. However, he averaged a career-low 9.6-yard average per catch. 

A lot falls on veteran quarterback Carson Palmer. At 37 and in his 15th pro season, he's coming off a so-so 2016 season – 26 TD passes, 14 interceptions and a passer rating of 87.2. The offensive line has to do a better job of protecting Palmer, as indicated by last season's 40 sacks.

The Cardinals go deep as often as any team in the league. That puts pressure on the secondary to defend all areas, along with being wary of Johnson at all times.

Defense – holding firm: All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson expects another big season from the unit, even though five starters were lost in free agency.

The Cardinals were second overall in total yards allowed per game (305.2), fourth against the pass (210.3) and ninth against the run (94.9).

In two game-changing categories, the Cardinals led the league with 48 sacks and tied for fourth with 28 takeaways.

The possibility of the Cardinals being better is a scary proposition, but Peterson believes it.

"We definitely on paper have the ability to be better than last year and be the best since I've been here," Peterson said in a recent interview with

Added safety Tyrann Mathieu: "You can't underestimate the value of speed on defense, and I think this is the fastest we've ever been."

Special teams – old legs: The Cardinals signed two veterans to upgrade the special teams unit.

The Cardinals signed 42-year-old kicker Phil Dawson in March and added 34-year-old punter Andy Lee earlier this week. They have a combined 32 seasons of NFL experience – 19 for Dawson, 13 for Lee – and should benefit from spending the 2013-14 seasons together in San Francisco, where Lee was the holder for Dawson.

Cards notes:

Rookie report: Rookie linebacker Haason Reddick, the Cardinals' first-round pick, isn't likely to start, but he should get playing time because of an injury to Deone Bucannon.

"He's in two or three of our packages, so yeah, he's going to be out there a bunch," Arians said.

Missed kicks: Missed field goals in the first two games contributed heavily to Arizona missing the playoffs last year. A miss from 47 yards in the final minute cost them a 23-21 loss to the Patriots in the opener. The next week they had a 24-yard miss in overtime in a 6-6 tie with Seattle.

Line depth: Guard Alex Boone was signed to a one-year contract after being cut by the Vikings. The eight-year pro started 14 games for the Vikings last year. The Cardinals need depth behind left guard Mike Iupati, who is contending with a tricep injury.

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