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Despite a strong start, the Arizona Cardinals ‘ain’t blank’

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Nine NFL teams are 2-0.

The Arizona Cardinals are one of them.

Over the past two seasons, nine of the 15 teams, including the Cardinals a year ago, that started 2-0 reached the playoffs.

Going back 25 years, 63 percent of the teams that started 2-0 made the postseason.

In other words, the Cardinals are in a pretty good spot; just don’t tell that to head coach Bruce Arians.

“He was trying to send us a message this morning,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said.

And what was that message to begin the team meeting this week?

“You ain’t blank,” according to quarterback Carson Palmer, who cleaned up Arians’ vocabulary when retelling the story to reporters on Wednesday.

“This team, when you think back to last year and being 8-1, 9-1 whatever it was,” Palmer continued, “you never felt like we’ve arrived, so I don’t see that being an issue for us this year. We handle the highs so well, and when the lows came, maybe we didn’t handle those as well as being patted on the back and tooting their own horn. We handled it very well last year and we are 2-0, love to be 3-0, but we realize it all means nothing.”

The Cardinals are a popular subject right now and not just locally, but nationally as well.

ESPN placed the Cardinals No. 3 in its latest power rankings, up three spots from a week ago, and trailing only New England and Green Bay.

The experts see an offense that leads the league in both points (79) and touchdowns scored (11), a defense that’s yet to allow a second-half touchdown and a special teams unit that just delivered the second-longest play in NFL history, David Johnson’s 108-yard kickoff-return.

“When they’re patting you on the back, they are looking for a soft spot, where to stick the knife,” Arians said. “The same guy patting us on the back may say we might lose the next 10 in a row. He might still be right.”

Through the first two games this season, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents 79-42. The +37 point differential is the best in the league, just ahead of the New York Jets (+34).

Sunday, the Cardinals play their first division game, hosting NFC West-rival San Francisco at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.

“You got to win the West if you are going to go where you want to go, and San Francisco and Seattle have been the problem,” Arians said.

Under Arians, the Cardinals are 5-7 against the division, including a 1-3 mark against both the Niners and Seahawks.

Outside the division, they are 18-4.

“We haven’t done anything, and I don’t believe anyone in our locker room is really reading their press clippings –well, maybe David (Johnson),” Mathieu said, laughing. “David is probably reading his; I mean, I’d be reading it, too. But, we got a great bunch. We got some good leaders on our team, so I think it’s easy to stay focused.

“We understand the task at hand. Last year is a perfect example. We started out hot and we kind of hit a wall, so I think everybody is kind of reminded of last year and how it ended for us. We just want to put the pedal on the gas and just stay on it.”

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