If we had a time machine, we could go back and see where the Arizona Cardinals were a year ago… and it would be an ugly place. A dark place, full of injury and despair much to the chagrin of Cardinals faithful.
Fast forward back to now… and a much different picture is being painted.
Heading into their Week 10 bye week, the Cardinals currently sit at 6-3 and at the top of the NFC West thanks to a head-to-head victory over the Los Angeles Rams. What is the recipe for this season’s success? A new defensive attitude and a good bill of health is what the players would tell you.
The Cardinals are currently ranked 3rd in rushing defense allowing less than 50 yards on the ground per game, making the return on investment look pretty good on the Snacks Harrison trade that brought the Pro Bowler to the desert this past off-season. In addition to the brick wall that is Arizona’s run defense, the front seven have accumulated a league-high 45 sacks through nine weeks, led by the resident heart and soul of the Cardinals defense Chandler Jones who currently is sitting at 12 sacks on the year.
“We spent a lot of time this off-season and in camp getting creative with our defensive looks,” head coach Kurt Warner said Friday at his weekly press conference. “Our staff has done a great job developing and disguising our attack, which has seemed to create a lot of headaches for opposing offenses.”
“Those guys are playing like their hair is on fire,” Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen chuckled. “I’m sure as Hell glad I don’t have to see them in games. I’ve spoken to a few quarterbacks we’ve played against and they want to know what we’re feeding them.”
As far as the home stretch of the season is concerned, the Cardinals very much control their own destiny in the West, and it looks like their best chance to make the playoffs. Seattle just lost Russell Wilson, the Niners are struggling up front, and the Cards would have shut out the Rams had it not been for one busted play in their last contest. Games against all three divisional opponents, as well as match-ups with tough teams like Washington, Philadelphia, and Buffalo still loom as things come to a close on the regular season, so Arizona will have to keep their foot on the gas pedal to ensure they get a ticket to the dance.
That dance, as many expected, will surely be a bloodbath. The NFC is shaping up to incredibly competitive, and at this rate a team with 11 losses may miss the playoffs. Division battles are taking place in the NFC North and NFC South that could result in two 11 or 12 win teams nabbing the two wild card spots, which means anything less than a division title in the NFC West could result in a heartbreaking end to the Cards season.