The Arizona Cardinals were neck-and-neck with the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans through the season's first four weeks. All three teams began 2012 undefeated, but the Cardinals have since fallen back to the rest of the pack.
Arizona has matched its four-game winning streak with just as many losses and now sits 4-4 at the season's midway point.
No one thought the Cardinals could continue to reside near the top of the NFL hierarchy. But after four straight losses, where exactly does this team sit? And what is the reason for the regression?
The defense has played well all season long, giving up only 312.8 yards and 17.8 points per game. However, injuries to the backfield and quarterback positions have prevented the Cardinals from matching those results on the offensive end.
Arizona was never built to light up the scoreboard, being constructed more like their counterpart on Monday Night Football, the San Francisco 49ers: play solid defense, run the ball well and don't let your quarterback lose games for you.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt's job is to put the Cardinals in position to win games, so the onus is ultimately on him during the team's losing streak.
How many wins would be considered a success for the Cardinals this season?
So the question begs: Is Whisenhunt suddenly on the hot seat after Monday night's 24-3 loss to the 49ers?
Arizona's current losing streak has the potential of reaching six with upcoming road games against the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons. As losses mount, so will the pressure for Whisenhunt to scramble to find quick answers.
But with a shaky quarterback situation—an injury to Kevin Kolb and inconsistent play out of John Skelton—and a patchwork backfield that only mustered seven yards on nine carries against San Francisco, Whisenhunt is void of viable players to execute his game plan and should get a pass as long the Cardinals stay competitive.
Arizona's defense is good enough to keep them in most games, so don't expect their downward spiral to continue.
Regardless of how the Cardinals got there, a 4-4 start to the season should be looked at very positively. Besides, there are plenty of other coaches currently more worthy of the hot seat than Whisenhunt.