(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.
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)
B. LaFell: 93 yds, TD
S. Gilmore: 33-yd INT TD
D. Bryant: 178 yds, 2 TDs, 0 tears shed
D. Bowe: 114 yds, TD
J. Campbell/G. Smith: 7 INTs (combined)
AJ Green: 124 yds, 2 TDs
P. Manning: 360 yds, 3 TDs
G. Zuerlein: 3 FGs
Eyeballs: 60,085 pairs damaged by ugly uniforms
C. Palmer: 299 yds, 3 TDs
L. Bell: 103 yds, TD
R. Bush: 165 yds/scrimmage
P. Rivers: 411 yds, 3 TDs
L. McCoy: 111 yds, TD
S. Vereen: 132 yds/scrimmage
M. Crabtree: 37-yd TD REC
Enjoy Week 16, everybody! I hope your team wins (unless they’re playing my team)…