In case you haven’t noticed, the national media is really comfortable dismissing the Cardinals this season. Part of that is understandable given their leadership deficit in the NFC West and the fact the last impression the Cardinals made was losing to John Wolford and the Rams with Kyler Murray nursing an ankle sprain in Week 17.
While I understand the hesitation to pick the Cardinals to break through in the NFC West, I think this Cardinals team is the most talented on paper since 2015.
It got me thinking about what the Cardinals fate may be if they played in every other division in football so I decided to actually write about it.
Would they win any divisions? Would they finish last in any other division? Would they be a wild card lock in other divisions?
Here are the answers I came up with:
- It helps that we saw Arizona play this division just last season..We saw Bill Belichick eat Kliff Kingsbury’s lunch last year with the worst Pats team in over two decades. The Bills lost on the Hail Murray and the Dolphins did whatever they wanted offensively with Tua and little else. The Cardinals easily beat the Jets but how much will Zach Wilson and Robert Saleh close the gap after Adam Gase and Sam Darnold? Verdict: Fourth place
- Another division the Cardinals have played in the Kyler Murray era. This rough and tumble division could be trouble for Cardinals but not as much as you’d think. The Steelers o-line is ripe for the picking, the Ravens and Cardinals may have body swapped and AJ Green would be a lock to drop 200 yards on the Bengals, assuming he would be healthy. Only the Browns seem like an obviously better team but once again the Cardinals would be at suffer a huge leadership deficit against the Steelers and Ravens. Verdict: Third place
- The Cardinals start their season against the betting favorite to win the AFC South, the Titans. A win in Nashville would seemingly solidify the Cardinals as the team to beat in hypothetical AFC South land. I do think the Colts are better than people are expecting. I’d love to see my Ed Dodds/Matt Eberflus package deal taking over in the desert next year. Arizona is clearly better than Houston and Jacksonville and let's hope they show that this year. Verdict: Second place
- This is a tough one for the Cardinals. The Chiefs are not stepping aside for Kliff and Co. Brandon Staley knows enough from his time in Los Angeles to know how to beat the Cardinals and Vic Fangio has built a potentially dominant defense in Denver. I don’t think the Cardinals could top any of those three teams but at least there are the Raiders. Verdict: Fourth place
- This is the biggest “what if?” for Cardinals fans. The Cardinals were in the NFC East from 1988-2002, winning it once it 1998. If the Cardinals still played here in 2021, they would add a second NFC East banner, winning the league outright by my calculations. Verdict: First place
- The Packers remain the top dog and the Cardinals will get a close look at the Packers during Week 8 this season. After that, this division is wide open. Detroit has Jared Goff but the anti-Sean McVay, Minnesota feels like its on the brink of implosion and Chicago should be good once Justin Fields takes over but how much damage will be done before that? With no proven head coaches and plenty of QB uncertainty, the Cardinals feel like a clear choice to challenge Green Bay from second place. Verdict: Second place
- You know Bruce Arians would sign off on having the Cardinals join the NFC South just so he could kick Michael Bidwill and Co’s butts twice a year. But other than Tampa Bay, I don’t think a single NFC South team is better than the Cardinals. The Panthers exposed Arizona last year and could likely do so again this year head to head but overall I think Arizona is better than Carolina. New Orleans is starting Jameis Winston and Atlanta is stuck in the stone age at QB. Verdict: Second place