How Good ARE The Arizona Cardinals?

Zeke FuhrmanAnalyst IIIDecember 10, 2008

After crushing the St. Louis Rams, 34-10, the Arizona Cardinals clinched their first NFC West title since...ever, and their first division title since 1975, when they were the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals currently sit at 8-5. If the Cardinals played in the NFC North, AFC East, or AFC West, they would be tied for first with the 8-5 Minnesota Vikings and the 8-5 New England Patriots/Miami Dolphins/New York Jets, and the 8-5 Denver Broncos. But if they played in the other three divisions, they would have no chance of winning the division behind the NFC East New York Giants (11-2), AFC South Tennessee Titans (12-1), AFC North Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) and NFC South Carolina Panthers (10-3). They wouldn't even be in second or third place in some of these divisions. They would be behind the Baltimore Ravens (9-4), Indianapolis Colts (9-4), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-4), and would be tied with the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons (both 8-5).

This raises a puzzling question. Are the Arizona Cardinals really that good? They play in, unarguably, the worst division in football. No two teams have finished over .500 since 1998.

If you look back at their schedule, five of their eight wins came against other NFC West opponents, who have a combined 9-30 record. They were, however, blown out by the New York Jets (56-35) and Philadelphia Eagles (48-20), and have also lost to the Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers, and New York Giants, all of which are in the playoff hunt. Their three wins that didn't come against NFC West rivals were against the Buffalo Bills, the early-in-the-season Miami Dolphins, and the Dallas Cowboys (The Cardinals rallied to send the game to OT, then won the game on a blocked punt returned for a TD).

The Cardinals rank fourth in offensive YPG (376.4), and second in passing YPG (301.0), but they rank dead last in rushing YPG (980 yards, averaging 74.0 per game.)

The Cardinals are ranked 10th in total defense, but after surrendering 56 points to the Jets, 48 to the Eagles, and 37 to the Giants, you have to wonder how it will hold up against the non-NFC West teams (the good teams) in the playoffs.

The Cardinals will be tested in the coming weeks when they play the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots, both 8-5. They will probably rest their starters in the finale against Seattle, which will give Seattle a record of 3-13.

Kurt Warner has had an amazing year, and undoubtedly deserves the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. Warner is in the hunt for his third league MVP, but it takes more than a chiseled veteran QB to win a title.