It’s Hard To Be A Cardinals Fan – Take Two

09Nov16

Quick. What’s the first thing you thought of when you read that headline? Was it something like “this guy must have given up on the Arizona Cardinals”? I could understand it if it was. But you’d be wrong.

What I really meant was “why are all of these so-called expert talking heads crowning the Seattle Seahawks the NFC West division champions and eliminating the Cardinals from the playoff race?”

Listen, I get that the national media would jump on this bandwagon. Most of them didn’t know what city the Cards played in until last season (Glendale) and are convinced that the players ride a stagecoach along a dusty trail to practice every day. But when the local braniacs join in with the ridiculous rhetoric, I find myself turning the radio dial to the local heavy metal rock station, just to relax.

heavy-metal

Look, I’m the first one to admit that the Red Birds haven’t played to their fullest potential this season. And a 3-4-1 record at the mid-point of the season is not what anyone expected. Many sports fans, including most of these bandwagon experts, picked Arizona to go to, if not win, the Super Bowl.

So, why are they jumping ship? Well, let’s look at their track records. In an effort to look smart, they had jumped on the Philly train back in week three, after the Eagles trounced the Steelers and were atop the league with a 3-0 record. (Please ignore the fact that their first two victories were over Cleveland and Chicago!) This team was on their way to the Super Bowl!

Hmm…… at 4-4 and in last place in the NFC East, we’d better ignore them and hope nobody remembers that we were once singing their praises. Let’s talk about Minnesota. What a Cinderella story. At 5-0, they were surely the team to beat in the NFC!

Well I guess the league thought so, too, since they proceeded to beat the Vikings each of the next three weeks.

Now they’ve jumped full board on to the Cowboy Express. And why not? At 7-1, they share the best record in the league with the Patriots and lead the NFC. Just be sure to ignore the fact that they’re playing a last place schedule, with the only opponents to date that are currently above .500 being the Redskins and Giants, and reside in a mediocre division (argue all you want – it’s the truth).

But enough about the expert’s tendencies to jump ship when their pick starts to lose. Let’s look at some of the, uh-hum, logic behind their decision to bury the Cardinals already.

Carson Palmer is having a terrible season –

carson-palmer

Actually, he’s not having a terrible season. He’s just not having an MVP year like he did last season. And why not? Two main reasons. First, the opponent’s defensive schemes are taking away the bombs down the sidelines. Second, the receiving corps has not had their heads in the game on a routine basis. Other than Larry Fitzgerald, they are running the wrong routes and dropping passes left and right. Unfortunately, when you simply read the box scores and don’t watch the games, you don’t know that.

There are too many teams to leapfrog in order to make the playoffs –

This is just lazy reporting. Yes, there are a lot of teams knotted up at this point in time. In fact, when you take the four division leaders out of the equation, there are ten teams that are within two games of each other, battling for the two wildcard spots. Arizona is right in the middle of that pack.

But there are eight weeks remaining and all of these teams will take turns beating on each other. If the Cardinals take care of business, it doesn’t matter what any of these other teams do, they will be in the playoffs.

Seattle is just too good –

I’m sorry, but this one blows me away. I’ve never been one to blame the referees for changing the outcomes of games, but if you take away only one bad call (or no-call) from each of the Seahawks games, they would be 2-6 and spoken in the same breath as San Francisco.

Yes, they have a very good defense, but their offense is impotent, which leaves their defense on the field for 60%-65% of their games. That is a recipe for disaster over the course of sixteen games, plus the playoffs. Just look at the last three games. Their defense has been on the field nearly 2/3 of the games. Their record is 1-1-1 over those three games, but it should have been 0-3.

Now, it appears that Jimmy Graham has remembered what it is that he did in New Orleans, or maybe the Seattle brain trust has finally remembered, but he has begun to show a glimmer of hope for their offense.

But until Wilson is healthy enough to run like he has in years past, or their running backs are actually able to gain positive yardage, they will not be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Just to clarify, I am an avid fan of my hometown team, the Arizona Cardinals. But I am also a realist. This team has underachieved for the entire first half of the season. They have only scored once in the first quarter, and it took until week six against the Jets to do that. If that trend continues, this season may not be salvageable.

They still tend to go for the deep pass a lot, even when the defense has shown that they are playing deep, to take that away. Instead, the play callers need to keep handing the ball off to David Johnson and assault the “D” with a bunch of 7-10 yard passes, forcing the secondary to move back in. Only then will the deep pass be a legitimate threat.

david-johnson

To their credit, they have been giving the ball to DJ a lot. The second-year stud is on pace for over 2,200 yards of offense and appears to be unstoppable. Let’s hope he stays healthy and doesn’t run out of gas before the season ends.

The defensive unit, the one that everyone was worried about going into the season, has been nothing short of spectacular. The offseason acquisition of Chandler Jones has paid dividends up and down the line. Not only is Jones getting his sacks, but other guys, like Calais Campbell and Marcus Golden, just to name a few, are able to shine, since they are no longer being double teamed on every play.

chandler-jones

As a result of the improved play of the front seven, the secondary does not need to continually blitz to pressure the quarterback. Just an occasional one to keep the opposition honest.

The net result is a top five defense. If the offense could simply play ball like they know how to do (just about everyone that scored on last year’s team is back on the roster this year), there is no reason they couldn’t go 6-2, 7-1 or, dare I say it, 8-0 over the second half of the season.

So, what do you say we don’t dig a six-foot-deep hole just yet? There’s still a lot of football to be played. The good teams still have time to rise up, just as the teams that have been over achieving have plenty of time to come back down to Earth. If the Cardinals are still hovering around .500 at week 14, I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s probably over.

But I don’t think I’ll need to!

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