Monday, December 21, 2009

The Mondays: The Cardinal Conundrum

When the Arizona Cardinals won against Minnesota earlier this month, they looked to be on the right track and good to go for the playoffs. They came off a tough last second loss to the Titans, and the win against a the Vikings helped the Cardinals prove their worth in the NFC.

They had a few key wins earlier in the season, including a win in the Meadowlands against the Giants and a 20-plus point win in Chicago. At 8-4, the Cards looked ready to claim their second straight division title in the NFC West.

By no means was the San Francisco game a clinching game, but a win against the 49ers would have put to rest any hopes of somebody taking the West from the defending NFC champions. That said, they still needed to win, last Monday night. And things were looking well for the Cardinals going into that Monday night game against the 49ers.

Seven turnovers later, the Cardinals left San Francisco with an ugly loss. Kurt Warner threw two picks in the loss and the Cards fumbled seven times (five counted as turnovers). It really was a frustrating game for the Cardinals.

On Sunday, the Cardinals just squeaked out a win against the Detroit Lions, who have been a popular team on our Loser Rankings as of late.

The Cards jumped out to a 17-0 lead at halftime. However, the Lions put on the board 17 points of their own in the third quarter, including a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Louis Delmas.

Detroit never took the lead, but did tie the game, 24-24, with less than four minutes left. It was a Warner touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin with 1:54 left, that put the Lions away for good. With the 161 yard rushing day by the Lions (126 via Maurice Morris), it marked the second straight week that the Cardinals gave up more than 150 yards rushing on defense.

Now let's make this point that yes, the Cardinals did clinch the NFC West after the 49ers lost to the Eagles on Sunday.

The Cardinals should be happy to be back in the playoffs. But that's not why I'm writing the column.

It was one year ago today that the Cardinals lost their snowy affair to the New England Patriots, 47-7. I didn't really have much to say about that day, but it was definitely a tough one for the Cardinals to take. They lost two of their final three games and found themselves in the wild card game against Atlanta.

Sure enough, those Cards did run the table and made it all the way to the Super Bowl. It was definitely one of the best playoff runs for a team in NFL History (Note: I'm not saying it's the best run, just one of the best).

By no means am I calling the Cardinals a bad team. They've played well this season, better than last season. You can credit the defense for that. Going into Sunday, the Cardinals were the sixth best defense in the NFC. Last season though, the Cards were the third worst in the NFC, behind an 0-16 Lions and the Rams.

With the Saints and Vikings all stumbling this weekend, and Philly winning big over San Francisco, it's safe to say the Cardinals are still in decent shape. They will most likely be playing on wild card weekend though. But this is a team that has the potential to get hot at the right time. The only question I have is, will they or won't they?

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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