The Cardinals learned the significance of slow starts in Bruce Arians’ first year as coach. A 3-4 start in 2013 left Arizona on the outside looking in at the playoffs despite a 10-6 final record.
Last season, a 9-1 start pushed the Cardinals (11-5) into the postseason for the first time since 2009, and Arians has stated often that another quick start will be critical in a tough 2015 NFC playoff race.
The Cardinals took another stride toward that goal with a 48-23 win over the Bears in Chicago, improving to 2-0. How vital is that to the playoff picture? Not as important as you might think.
Since 2007, 66 teams have started 2-0. Just 38 (58 percent) made it to the postseason while 28 missed. It’s next week’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers that could really boost the Cardinals’ odds. From 1990-2013, 75 percent of the teams that started 3-0 made the postseason. Last season, only the Cardinals and Bengals started 3-0 and both made the postseason.
There are numerous other factors at play in a team’s playoff quest, most notably injuries, like the ACL tear that QB Carson Palmer suffered last season that derailed any hopes the Cardinals had of playing the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Still, a win over the 49ers (and even the following week against the Rams) would go a long way toward punching Arizona’s ticket. As for the odds of wins in those next two games, keep in mind that Arizona is 14-3 at home under Arians.
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