Saints, Bengals, and Cardinals: Can You Believe It?

Chris FarmerCorrespondent IDecember 19, 2009

Dec 1984:  Quarterback Richard Todd of the New Orleans Saints calls signals at the line during a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California. Mandatory Credit: Tony Duffy  /Allsport
Tony Duffy/Getty Images

Note: I wrote this article after Week 13, but thought I would share it on B/R anyway.

I must admit it is pretty satisfying to see the Patriots, the team of the decade and winners of three Super Bowls, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of an all-time most six Super Bowls, struggling as of late and in danger of missing the playoffs.

The Steelers seem to keep chugging along no matter who the coach is. All those years with Chuck Noll, then Bill Cowher, and now Mike Tomlin, and every single one has a ring.

Give it a break would ya?

It finally looks like they are.

I was pulling for Tom Brady and the Patriots their first go around, the year of the infamous Snow Bowl/Tuck Rule versus the Raiders, but after awhile, their domination got a little tiring.

Both may very well be playing themselves out of the playoffs altogether. Besides, its nice to see some other teams get a chance.

The Saints, Bengals, Lions, and Cardinals form perhaps the losingest quattro in league history, at least as far as reputation, and most of it is also quantifiable with stats as well.

But not this year, not now. Three of these are not just respectably good, but some of them are the teams to beat in the NFL this season.

Of this historically un-feared foursome, the Lions will be the last team to get up off the mat.

The Cardinals rise last season was no fluke, as evidenced by their 8-5 record and their thorough beat down of a previously 10-1 Vikings team several Sunday nights ago. Many were claiming that Minnesota was the most complete team in the NFL, but their weaknesses have been exposed by the annually under-appreciated Cardinals.

If you aren't a fan, you may not realize that Arizona's rise to prominence has been a consistent building process that began with former coach Dennis Green. Green's lack of success in the standings was disappointing, but he helped lay the foundation with the selection of some of the main cogs in the Cardinals' current starting lineup.

Under Green, the Cardinals drafted Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett, and Antrel Rolle, all Pro Bowl caliber talent. Green is also responsible for guard Deuce Lutui, a solid four-year starter.

Ken Whisenhunt is a methodical coach, and his team's steady improvements in his first three seasons reflect that patient, calm approach. The Cardinals went 8-8, 9-7 and now sit at 8-5 with a Super Bowl berth already under their belts.

The Bengals had more success in their past than the Cardinals, making the playoffs in 1970, 1973, 1975, 1981, 1982, 1988, and 1990, but outside of the Ken Anderson and Boomer Easiason-led teams and their two Super Bowl appearances, most people remember the futile '90's decade when they were the the laughing stock of the league.

It wasn't until Marvin Lewis was hired in 2003 that they began to turn things around.

After two 8-8 seasons, 2005 saw a Cincinnati team develop into one of the league's best. They had a great young quarterback in Carson Palmer, and were so solid all around that they appeared to be putting together a contender for years to come.

They went 11-5 and won the AFC North, only to lose in a wild card game to start the playoffs. Worse than that, they lost Palmer on only the second play of that game, an injury that took a couple of seasons to fully heal.

Partially due to that, the Bengals dropped off of the national radar until this season. But all has been forgotten, as they are back with a 9-4 record, boasting one of the best defenses in the league.

The 2009 Saints need no introduction. Drew Brees is finally getting recognition for being one of the game's best quarterbacks, and Sean Payton's play calling is so good it's frustrating.

They have an endless supply of speed on both sides of the ball and the addition of both Greg Williams and Darren Sharper have ignited the team to the highest level of play in team history.

Even if you are too young to have seen it for yourself, any rabid NFL fan has surely seen the pictures of Saints fans with brown bags over their heads from back in the day. They were mockingly referred to as the 'Aints, with good reason.

Their misery started in 1967 as an expansion team, and it took two decades before they could lay claim to a winning record. They had some exceptional teams in the late '80's and early '90's that made the playoffs four times, but nothing compares to the way they are playing now.

Now back to the Lions. I think Detroit has put themselves into position to make a run, I really do. Matthew Stafford has proven his moxy and leadership; he just needs more experience. He has an incredibly strong arm and any quarterback in the league would love to have Calvin Johnson to throw to.

I have a good feeling about coach Jim Schwartz. After what he did on the defensive side of the ball for Tennessee, you have to like his chances.

So Lions fans, I ask you, has your team finally started the ascension?

You will be the last losingest team to get up off the mat.

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