Arizona Cardinals: A Playoff Season In The "Cards?"
With all due respect to how bad the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, and New Orleans Saints have been at varying times in their history, arguably the most consistently horrible team in the NFL annals is the Arizona Cardinals.
In their 21 years in the greater Phoenix area, they have treated fans to one playoff appearance. Granted, 1998 was outstanding as, with Jake Plummer at the helm, they embarrassed the Cowboys in Texas Stadium in the wild card round before a much better Vikings team leveled them in the divisional matchup.
Since then, however, the Cardinals' prospects for success have been as dry as the desert region wherein they reside. Even so, given the NFC West seeming to be the worst division in football, recent strides the franchise has taken makes postseason success possible.
Ken Whisenhunt should receive the bulk of the credit as he did the right thing in going with veteran leadership rather than youthful potential.
Under the direction of Kurt Warner, the Arizona offense is doing something I'll bet many of you aren't aware of: they lead the NFL in scoring with 29.5 points a game. Additionally, the prolific passing offense amasses just over 273 yards a game, good for second in the league.
Tim Hightower, the former Richmond Spider, has also been a godsend as he has scored five touchdowns and is an essential cog in the machine. His presence is especially valuable as Edgerrin James draws to the close of what should be a Hall of Fame career.
Defensively, the Cardinals have been successful and yet sporadic. Oddly enough, they rank in the top half of both rushing yards and total yards allowed, but they're in the bottom half in points surrendered and passing defense.
However, as many illustrious analysts, such as Michael Lombardi and John Clayton, have stated innumerable times, playoff teams are able to stop the run.
If you give up just under 94 yards on the ground, like the Cardinals do, that's a good place to start. Of course, the average final score to Cards games thus far has been 29-24, something defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast must overcome.
Still, when this team is on, they are very tough. Just ask the Buffalo Bills. In a quirky NFL season, perhaps the quirkiest thing of all could happen, a Super Bowl appearance by the Arizona Cardinals.
That's why I love the NFL. Even the Cardinals have a shot.
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