TEMPE, Ariz. – With a win on Sunday the Arizona Cardinals will clinch the NFC West, their first division title since 2009.
A victory would also be their eighth in a row, the club’s longest such streak since 1948; and 12th of the season, establishing a franchise record for most wins in a single year.
The records and marks the Cardinals, both team and individual, are approaching — and in some cases surpassed already — are astonishing.
It can be argued, with all due respect to the Super Bowl team in 2008, that this season’s version of the Cardinals may very well go down as the greatest of all time.
And perhaps separating this group from all the others is their success on the road.
“Close to perfect,” head coach Bruce Arians said, “and we should have won (at Pittsburgh). It speaks volumes for our team, how we’re built, to be able to win that many games on the road, especially with where we’ve been.”
The Cardinals’ road record is 6-1.
The six wins — Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis — are tied for the most in a season in franchise history.
The Cardinals can set a new mark this week with a victory at Philadelphia in their regular season road finale.
“I think it’s just our intensity level, energy level; just trying to match the home team’s intensity and just not trying to start flat. I think a lot of our road games, we started slow but we were able to get up out of it,” safety Tyrann Mathieu explained.
“It’s critical to start fast against this team and not let them get a jumpstart on us.”
If the Cardinals are to record a seventh road victory, then they will have earned it.
Aside from the team — Philadelphia (6-7) has won back-to-back games to put them in the thick of the NFC East playoff race — the trip itself appears to be the most challenging, yet.
First, there’s the cross-country travel to cover the 2,300-plus miles, the longest journey of the season; and then factor in the weather.
The forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 30s at kickoff.
Arians, however, dismissed Mother Nature.
“It was icing in Pittsburgh. It was cold up in Seattle and it was night,” he said. “It’s a Sunday night game. None of that matters, unless there’s a foot of snow on the ground. Then it affects the game. The weather can truly affect the game. Hopefully, it’s not that type of game.”
Under Arians, the Cardinals are 14-9 on the road.
Beat Philadelphia and Arians’ 15 road wins would match his predecessor Ken Whisenhunt’s total, and he would do so in half the time.
And it’s not just winning on the road that’s been impressive, but how the Cardinals have won away from the climate-controlled confines of University of Phoenix Stadium this season.
Of their six road wins, four have come by double-digits and three by 20 or more points.
In fact, no NFL team this season has scored more points (222) and more touchdowns (27) on the road than the Cardinals, and the 222 points scored established a new franchise record.
The Cardinals are one of only three teams, joining Carolina and Denver, with at least six road wins.
Of course all this seems to matter very little inside the locker room.
“I didn’t even realize we were 6-1 on the road,” defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. “To tell you the truth, to me, what’s more important to me is solidifying winning the division. I know if we win this game we win the division and that would be huge. It puts us with a guaranteed home game, a good situation in the playoffs.
“Winning the division is huge. That’s hanging a banner. You get a t-shirt and hat. It’s been awhile since we had that, 2009. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity again.”
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