Circumstances matter: Why the Cardinals may just have a shot


Los Angeles Chargers v Arizona Cardinals

Los Angeles Chargers v Arizona Cardinals

I thought the Cardinals would win seven games. Then again, I thought the 49ers would win the NFC West.

Circumstances matter.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick played in the AFC East for two decades, where their stiffest rivalry was comprised of Rex Ryan and Butt-Fumble Sanchez. LeBron James cruised to a title this year while Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving were sideline with injuries. The 49ers won the NFC West last year while it collectively rebuilt itself, even if the Seahawks did so on the fly.

Did you know the 49ers started 2019 playing Jameis Winston (three interceptions), the Bengals (went on to tank their way to the number one overall pick), the Big Ben-less Steelers, and the Case Keenum-led Washington Football Team?

Even still, they came within an inch of conceding the NFC West to an incomplete Seahawks roster.

Would the 49ers be defending NFC Champions had they been forced to play three playoff games? Who knows.

We do know what it looks like when things aren't breaking San Francisco's way, though. The 49ers lost 43-17 to the dismal Dolphins this past weekend. It was the final act to their slow-motion collapse, set in motion by injuries to Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Jimmy Garoppolo and Richard Sherman. They're now 2-3, and that was the easy part of their schedule.

The NFL generally doesn't grant teams two generous seasons in a row. At the same time, it never keeps you down too long (unless you're the Browns).

Outside of a potential season-ending biceps injury for Chandler Jones, it seems somebody blew on Arizona's dice when the new league year began.

First, Bill O'Brien traded away DeAndre Hopkins (and consequentially his head coaching job) for a second-round pick and the league's worst running back contract. Then, things got weirdly convenient for Steve Keim and company:

Week 1: The Cardinals faced a 49ers team without its number one and number two wide receivers. Win.

Week 2: The Cardinals faced a Washington team which hadn't yet come to its senses about Dwayne Haskins. Haskins has now been demoted to third-string, and there are rumors about him being traded. Win.

Week 5: The Cardinals faced the worst team in the league in the Jets, who happened to be starting their backup quarterback and left tackle. Win.

Week 6: The Cardinals will face the most intimidating passing attack in football, without the player that made it so intimidating in the first place. Dak Prescott, who leads the league in passing yards, is out for the season with an ankle injury. His replacement, Andy Dalton, has 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in his last 13 starts.

Week 10: The Cardinals will face an exhausted Bills team which will be on the last stretch of the most tiresome period any NFL team will face this year. The Bills are forced to play 6 games in a 33 days because of coronavirus-induced schedule complications. The Cardinals happen to be the 6th-and-last opponent of that stretch, before Buffalo finally gets to its bye.

Week 15: The Cardinals will face an unexpectedly bad Eagles team which currently sits at 1-1-3, and is relying on practice squad signee Travis Fulgham as its number one wide receiver.

Not to mention, this is the first year of the expanded NFL playoffs, which will submit three wildcard teams from each conference, instead of two.

The football gods have assembled. They've stricken the 49ers, and blessed the Cardinals. Or, it just kinda feels like things are going Arizona's way this year.

Whatever the case, I'm sensing the Cardinals will prove me wrong. I'm sensing they have a chance.