Spoiler Alert: Week 16 – The Rise of the Arizona Phoenix

(Jay Feely/Daryn Colledge )

(Jay Feely/Daryn Colledge )

My pal Daniel (@MoveTheSticks) Jeremiah asked an interesting question the other day: “If you went out on the street and asked people who call themselves NFL fans, how many of them how would know the Cardinals’ record?”

Considering the avalanche of playoff-scenario breakdown segments put out over the last few days, you may have absorbed the correct answer (9-5), but the point is still well taken. No one seems to have noticed what’s going on in the desert this season.  (By the way… for a more in-depth analysis of Week 16 and all the playoff implications, I encourage – nay, demand! – you listen to the latest ‘Dave Dameshek Football Program’ with our pals Elliot Harrison and Marc Sessler.)

You’ve probably already seen the above photos of festively festooned Arizona Cardinals (a requirement of Carson Palmer for any of his teammates who want the Christmas gifts he’s gotten them).

Fun? Yes… but it’s just the start of the good tidings for Arizona this weekend.

That’s right, I’m gonna say it: the Cardinals will pull the biggest upset of 2013 this Sunday when they go into the C-Link and deliver Russell Wilson his first home loss as a pro.

Thanks to Peyton Manning, the word “narrative” has become prominent here in December 2013.  In that spirit, then, here’s an underreported narrative: Arians is a really good coach.  Matter of fact, he deserves serious consideration for a second-straight Coach of the Year award (as well as the world’s biggest fruit basket from the Steelers, the team that announced he was “retiring” two years ago).  As great a job as he did in guiding a team with a rookie QB to the playoffs last year, he now has the Cardinals – the Arizona Cardinals! – on the edge of the playoffs.

No doubt Palmer has had a large hand – or arm – in the Cards’ success, but being an upgrade from the QBs the team’s used over the couple seasons is the definition of damning with faint praise.  In other words, make no mistake: Arians has been the lynchpin to Arizona’s rise from the ashes. (By the way, the Arizona Phoenix would be way to go if the team ever decides to rebrand itself.)

Now, though, comes the bad news in the form of back-to-back games against the NFL’s two best teams (at Seattle and home to San Francisco).  The playoff chase looks bleak… but it says here Arians’ gang will stay alive at least through Christmas. I know, I know… the Seahawks never lose in Seattle, but never can’t last forever. Spare me your notes of outrage, Hawks fans: Come January, I believe your team will start a new two-game streak that’ll carry over to September 2014, when the team kicks off the NFL season at home (as is the custom for the defending Super Bowl champ).

But back to the here and now. The Cardinals need to win, whereas the Seahawks would merely like to win to solidify their inevitable spot atop the NFC standings. I’ll take the more desperate team, the team with the menacing d-line and egregiously underrated middle linebacker and shutdown cornerback and all-world receiver and emerging skill position players and the aforementioned great coach. Gimme the Cardinals.

By the way, maybe the loss will be good for the Seahawks. Pete Carroll will know how to use it as a wakeup call just in time for the playoffs.  And who knows? Maybe Pete will get to thank Arians in-person for said wakeup call before the Cards & Seahawks playoff game kicks off.

Let’s get to this week’s picks.

spoiler-alert

Warning: do NOT continue reading if you don’t want to know final scores of the Week 16 games.

(7-9 last week, 140-86 on the season)

SAINTS 21

PANTHERS 23

B. LaFell: 93 yds, TD

DOLPHINS 17

BILLS 19

S. Gilmore: 33-yd INT TD

COWBOYS 38

SKINS 37

D. Bryant: 178 yds, 2 TDs, 0 tears shed

COLTS 20

CHIEFS 23

D. Bowe: 114 yds, TD

BROWNS 22

JETS 23

J. Campbell/G. Smith: 7 INTs (combined)

VIKES 27

BENGALS 40

AJ Green: 124 yds, 2 TDs

BRONCOS 31

TEXANS 17

P. Manning: 360 yds, 3 TDs

BUCS 7

RAMS 9

G. Zuerlein: 3 FGs

TITANS 13

JAGS 10

Eyeballs: 60,085 pairs damaged by ugly uniforms

CARDINALS 24

SEAHAWKS 21

C. Palmer: 299 yds, 3 TDs

STEELERS 28

PACKERS 27

L. Bell: 103 yds, TD

GIANTS 20

LIONS 30

R. Bush: 165 yds/scrimmage

RAIDERS 13

CHARGERS 31

P. Rivers: 411 yds, 3 TDs

BEARS 28

EAGLES 31

L. McCoy: 111 yds, TD

PATS 26

RAVENS 21

S. Vereen: 132 yds/scrimmage

FALCONS 13

NINERS 20

M. Crabtree: 37-yd TD REC

Enjoy Week 16, everybody! I hope your team wins (unless they’re playing my team)…

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