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Wolf: Motivated Cardinals

I don’t understand it and things I don’t understand always put me in an abstract mood.

The Arizona Cardinals get no respect and haven’t for the last three seasons. Even after they won the NFC Championship and were the NFC’s representative in Super Bowl 43, a Super Bowl they almost won, before the start of the 2009 season they were an afterthought for most of the experts. Last year, they won the NFC West, again, beat Green Bay on Wild Card Weekend and made it to the Divisional Playoff Round, losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion. Again, those in the know called it a fluke. This is a team nobody takes seriously.

(This is great.)

Competition and competing is about proof. Be it an individual or team sport, competition forces competitors to show all those who would oppose them – and those that would bare witness – as to whom the better man or team is and the proof is indisputable.

So how does a ten-win team with back-to-back division titles and a 4-2 playoff record over the same period receive such little regard?

(Who cares? Just keep it coming, baby.)

The Cards play in the NFC West. The irony is almost laughable and to the experts so is the division. For the last 3 or 4-years, the NFC West has battled it out with the AFC West for the title of the NFL’s worst division. And this is why Big Red gets a Big Red beat-down every year from the national media. But the irony of this perception is found in the indisputable proof of what has transpired over the last two post-seasons: the Cardinals have won twice as many games as they have lost.

Enter the 2010 NFL season. The Cardinals find themselves sailing on The Red Sea in the same boat. The San Francisco 49ers are the overwhelming favorite to win the division and many people have the Cards finishing 3rd in the division behind the Seahawks.

(I heard the Rams could give them a run for their money.)

Although it baffles many as to why they get so little respect, I know this is the way Ken Whisenhunt prefers it and I know his team responds best to this kind of treatment.

(I hope Coach Whiz reminds them of their pathetic plight every day.)

I understand the jaundiced eye toward the Cardinals. Big Red has had a tumultuous off-season: Warner retired, Boldin was traded, Dansby and Rolle departed as free-agents. And Matt Leinart is going to be the team’s starting QB.

(Why even go up the hill? Just give the title to the 49ers now.)

And the 49ers have Alex Smith starting at QB with David Carr waiting in the wings. They have a suspect secondary and will start two rookies along the offensive line, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati. The Cardinals have their share of question-marks and so do the 49ers.

So why have the experts handed the divisional torch – like they did last year – to San Francisco?

(See above…)

49ers fans like to pound their chest and point to the Cards losing both divisional games to San Francisco in 2009. One should not take great comfort in this as the Cards did not lose a divisional game in 2008. Things can change, like they did for the 49ers last year, and every year is different.

The good news is this: competition is about proof. None of this prognostication matters. What the experts are saying, what the fans are saying, what the analysts are saying, what the players are saying, what the coaches aren’t saying, none of it matters.

(Unless a head coach can use it to galvanize his team.)

That’s why I, Ron Wolfley, Cardinals Color Analyst, am picking San Francisco to win the division.

(How’s that feel, Big Red?)

Listen to Ron Wolfley on the Doug & Wolf show weekdays, 5-9 a.m. on Sports 620 KTAR.