By: Ethan Tyrrell, KCOU Sports
The NFC West has what appears to be a top contender for the Super Bowl. It isn’t the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks, nor is it the always-competitive San Francisco 49ers. It’s the surprising, underestimated, one-loss Arizona Cardinals.
It was just two seasons ago that the Arizona finished at the bottom of its division. Ken Whisenhunt got the boot, Carson Palmer was signed quarterback, and Bruce Arians was hired as head coach. The following season, Arizona doubled their wins and finished 10-6, just out of the playoffs.
And that leaves us where we are now. Through 10 games, the Cardinals have posted a 9-1 record, the best record in football. Their only loss came at the hands of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. They have a three game lead over both the Seahawks and the 49ers.
Even with their apparent success, the Cardinals are set as 5.5-point underdogs against their division rival Seahawks. That’s not the end to the underestimation of the Cardinals either. A majority of major “Power Rankings” have the Cardinals as, at best, second in the league.
This can be understood, as Arizona lost their quarterback, Carson Palmer, to an ACL injury and replaced him with Drew Stanton. But the Cardinals are not a quarterback-driven team. Carson Palmer is not Aaron Rodgers. If Green Bay were to lose Aaron Rodgers, they would struggle. Their team is built off of quarterback production. The same cannot be said for Cardinals.
The Cardinals are built off of a solid defense. They have given up only 17.6 points per game, third best in the league. This goes along with only 80.5 rushing yards per game. The old saying says, “Defense wins championships.” If this is true, then the Cardinals are in peak position to make a run.
And this doesn’t even begin to address how well Bruce Arians has coached this team. He took the team from five wins to ten in a season and is poised to already match that mark with six games remaining in the season. What he has brought to this team cannot be overstated. If anyone but Arians were given the coach of the year title, it would be a mistake.
As stated above, the Cardinals go into Sunday’s matchup with the Seahawks as an underdog. Most analysts have them as one of the better teams in the league, but not the best. While their quarterback may not be the strongest in the world, their defense and coaching are set to put them in position to make a title run.