Arizona Cardinals and the 10 Biggest in-Season Collapses in NFL History

Nick Kostora@@nickkostoraContributor IIIDecember 11, 2012

Arizona Cardinals and the 10 Biggest in-Season Collapses in NFL History

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    The Arizona Cardinals' collapse this season should be considered both shocking and unexpected, but NFL history has trained us to think differently.

    We have seen teams completely fall apart for no apparent reason many times before, and because of that, few eyebrows were raised when the Cardinals began their descent into the power rankings basement.

    From 6-0 offensive juggernauts to 9-3 teams all but guaranteed a spot in the postseason, the unexpected has become routine in the NFL landscape.

    Let's break down the 10 biggest in-season collapses in NFL history.

10. 1998 Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Best Record: 7-4

    Final Record: 7-9

    Yes, this was the year that Jerome Bettis was famously robbed of an overtime coin toss against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.

    However, outside of that clear blunder, the fault for the Steelers' 1998 failures lie with no one but themselves.

    Pittsburgh scored just 16 points in the final four games of the season with Kordell Stewart at the helm and forgot how to utilize the ground-and-pound offensive philosophy that built up a 7-4 record in the first place.

9. 1996 Kansas City Chiefs

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    Best Record: 8-3

    Final Record: 9-7

    The 1996 Kansas City Chiefs are a unique case on this list because they did not simply lose six or seven games at the end of the season.

    Instead, Kansas City had two smaller losing streaks that kept them out of the postseason. The Chiefs dropped three out of four games in the middle of their schedule, including a 34-7 drubbing at the hands of John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

    After three consecutive wins, Kansas City then lost four of its final five games, including a 26-7 blowout courtesy of the Oakland Raiders.

8. 2007 Detroit Lions

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    Best Record: 6-2

    Final Record: 7-9

    It was not surprising when the 2007 Detroit Lions finished with a mediocre 7-9 record, but the way they got there certainly was.

    Detroit flew out of the gates with a 6-2 record behind the arm of Jon Kitna and the emerging hands of wide receiver Roy Williams. (That sentence sure is ridiculous in retrospect.)

    However, like most Lions teams over the last 50 years, a losing streak was on the horizon. Detroit lost six games in a row, including four by double digits, and quickly eliminated any playoff hopes that the Motor City may have built up.

7. 2003 Minnesota Vikings

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    Best Record: 6-0

    Final Record: 9-7

    There seems to be a clear trend emerging where many of the teams on this list feature coaches that are remembered as failures.

    Mike Tice does little to debunk that theory as his 2003 Minnesota Vikings started the season 6-0 and featured one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.

    WR Randy Moss would catch 17 touchdown passes that season, one of his best with Minnesota. The problem was that the rest of the team forgot how to win.

    Minnesota dropped its final four games that season, including a loss to the 4-11 Cardinals in Week 17 that cost Minnesota a wild-card berth.

6. 2012 Arizona Cardinals

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    Best Record: 4-0

    Current Record: 4-9

    The Arizona Cardinals began 2012 as one of the most surprising 4-0 teams in recent memory. The defense ranks among the best in football, but even as the wins piled up, there were serious question marks about the Cardinals offense.

    Those questions have proven valid as Arizona has now dropped nine games in a row and completely forgotten how to compete in games.

    Kevin Kolb, Jon Skelton and Ryan Lindley have all taken turns on the Cardinals QB carousel this season, while the team is coming off of a 58-0 Week 14 loss at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks.

5. 1978 Washington Redskins

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    Best Record: 6-0

    Final Record: 8-8

    Having John Riggins and Joe Theismann in place is a solid way to jump out to a 6-0 record and look like the top of the NFC heap.

    The problem for the 1978 Washington Redskins was that there were not enough pieces around those two stars, and teams caught on to that as the season wore on.

    Washington dropped eight of their final 10 games that season, including the last five altogether.

4. 1994 Philadelphia Eagles

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    Best Record: 7-2

    Final Record: 7-9

    Rich Kotite.

    That name alone seems like enough explanation for the Philadelphia Eagles' 1994 collapse, but I will explain further anyway.

    After starting the season 7-2, the Eagles with Kotite coaching and QB Randall Cunningham were clear Super Bowl contenders and a force to be reckoned with in the NFC East division.

    Perhaps it was at this point that the Eagles realized the Dallas Cowboys were more talented and skilled than they were. Philadelphia lost seven games in a row to end the season, including a 31-19 defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals.

3. 2008 New York Jets

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    Best Record: 8-3

    Final Record: 9-7

    Ah, yes, the Brett Favre-led New York Jets of 2008.

    Remember that team? The one with Eric Mangini as head coach.

    The Jets started the season strong, beating up on the AFC East and ending the Tennessee Titans' perfect season, but the joy would not last.

    Favre would suffer an injury and begin throwing countless interceptions. After that it was time for him to look for a new team and Mangini to look for a new job.

2. 2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Best Record: 9-3

    Final Record: 9-7

    The 2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a tough team to figure out. Led by Jon Gruden, the Buccaneers boasted one of the leagues best defenses were considered the class of the NFC South division.

    12 games into the season Tampa Bay was in a dead heat with the Panthers for the division lead before completely collapsing.

    Tampa Bay lost its last four games and has failed to return to elite status since.

1. 1987 San Diego Chargers

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    Best Record: 8-1

    Final Record: 8-7

    Sure, the 1987 season has an asterisk next to it because it included a strike, but San Diego's demise happened long after that issue had been settled.

    This was a Chargers team that was desperate to finally get the proverbial monkey off Dan Fouts' back and win a Super Bowl, but that dream was not meant to be.

    The Chargers lost their last six games and both Fouts and fellow Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow retired.