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  1. #1
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    Arizona looks like (gulp) playoff contender

    Arizona looks like (gulp) playoff contender
    By Scott Bordow, Tribune Columnist

    EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE (Mesa, Ariz.) Where's the key? Oh, there it is. Top row, right-hand corner.
    I've used the letter P before when writing about the Cardinals. But usually I have to buy a vowel after hitting it.
    Pathetic. Putrid. Pitiful.

    Playoffs?

    Yeah, way back in 1998, when Jake Plummer was still the darling of Arizona sports fans.

    Since then, however, I've avoided the wishful thinking that comes with a Cardinals victory.

    If they can win next week they'll be right back in it. Look at their schedule.
    They can win those games.

    Then, of course, Arizona loses that winnable game, and the elevator lands with a thud. Or, to put it in football vernacular, the Cardinals 49er it. So, with full awareness of how fragile the limb is that I'm climbing on, I hereby proclaim that the Cardinals are — oh, goodness, am I really saying it? — playoff contenders.

    Someone get me a drink to calm my nerves.

    Yes, it sounds crazy. Arizona is 4-5 after its 17-14 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday. That's not playoff material. That's a Las Vegas lounge act.

    But in the low tide pool that's the NFC, the Cardinals can spread their wings and take flight to parts unknown.

    Arizona is one game out of the final wild card spot. More amazingly, it's just one game out of the lead in the NFC Worst, er, West.

    If the Cardinals can beat 2-7 Carolina this Sunday, they'll be a .500 team and . . .

    Hey, Bordow, didn't you read what you wrote a few paragraphs up? Quit dreaming. These are the Cardinals.

    Yeah, I know that.

    But at some point, we have to acknowledge coach Dennis Green is onto something.

    The Cardinals have gone 4-2 since starting the season 0-3.

    They're 3-1 at Sun Devil Stadium and have won three straight at home for the first time since 1999.

    Of their final seven opponents, only three — the New York Jets, St. Louis and Seattle — have winning records.

    It's enough to make an overgrown man get too big for his britches.

    “Winning two straight games is nothing to get excited about,” said nose tackle Russell Davis. “We'll look back on that after our playoff game and say that's
    where the streak got started.”

    OK, this may be a good time for a few rational thoughts:

    - The Cardinals are 4-5, not 6-3. Who isn't 4-5 in the NFL?

    - Had Arizona not successfully navigated the game-winning, fourth-quarter drive in Miami last week, we'd already have written its obituary.

    - The Cardinals were 4-2 in 2002 and 6-6 in 1999. They finished 5-11 and 6-10, respectively.

    “Man, anything can happen,” said tackle Anthony Clement, and don't Cardinals fans know that.

    OK, smart guy. Why is this year different?

    Defense. The Cardinals play it.

    When Arizona was stoning teams early in the season, we kept waiting for the other cleat to drop.

    We're still waiting.

    On Sunday, the Giants went 80 yards on each of their first two possessions to take a 14-3 lead. New York stampeded Arizona with such ease, it looked like the Cardinals would give up 50 points.

    On their final nine possessions, the Giants gained 148 yards.

    It was as if the Cardinals found an extra-large phone booth, ripped off their clothes and emerged with a collective S on their chests.

    “We weren't playing physical and doing the things we normally do,” said defensive end Bertrand Berry, who sacked Giants quarterback Kurt Warner four times. “They came out aggressively, but I think we eventually matched the level of intensity and got the game.”

    Arizona's offense remains under construction. Quarterback Josh McCown threw for just 90 yards, and the Cardinals had 178 total yards — or 18 more than the Giants had on their first two drives.

    But Arizona won't need to channel the Indianapolis Colts as long as its defense dominates and Emmitt Smith keeps poking his head into the end zone.

    In six days, we could discover this is a mirage in the desert. But with every Sunday, it's becoming harder to hang on to the Cardinal stereotype.

    “We talked all week about putting together back-to-back good performances,” Davis said. “When you're up and down, it's hard for people to get excited about that. You have to give them something to root for.”

    The Cardinals have done just that.

    Now, they have a chance to turn polite applause into a standing ovation.

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  2. #2
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    Re: Arizona looks like (gulp) playoff contender

    The thought crossed my mind but then I remembered...it's the Cardinals.

  3. #3
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    Re: Arizona looks like (gulp) playoff contender

    I predicted these guys to be in the 2006 or maybe the 2005 playoffs, but THIS YEAR? I guess stranger things have happened.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  4. #4
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    Re: Arizona looks like (gulp) playoff contender

    I really hope that we make a dent in the playoffs now. I am tired of this NFC wost crap. Packers , Viking's 5-4, Detroit and Chicago 4-5, So the Vikings and Packers are supposed to be 2 of the NFC's best yet their records are the same as The Rams and Seahacks. The only teams doing better are Atlanta and Philly. Watching last night showed that the Eagles secondary is very exploitable. This Conference as a whole is pretty evenly matched that is why their are so many similar records. NFC worst my a$$, that is just the whiners not the whole division.
    LET'S GO DODGERS

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