TEMPE, Ariz. — What do five wins in the first six games get a team?
A 5-1 record and nothing more.
As the Arizona Cardinals come off a road win over the Oakland Raiders and prepare for a home date with the Philadelphia Eagles, they do so with an understanding that they have not really accomplished much up to this point.
Sure, it’s the team’s best start to a season since 1976, but none of it will matter if things go south from here.
“It’s so early in the season, you know, I’m a veteran in this league,” linebacker Larry Foote said. “I mean, if it’s playoffs you can start looking at yourself a little bit, but right now means nothing because you could lose five in a row so easy in this league and you guys would be talking bad about us.
“We just have to stay the course. We’re about to get into the meat of our schedule.”
Indeed, with a home game against the 5-1 Eagles followed by a road contest at the (currently) 6-1 Dallas Cowboys, the Cardinals are certainly set for a tougher pair of games than the two they are coming off of, wins over the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders.
And though the Cardinals have won five of their first six games, they’ve hardly been convincing in any of them.
“I think they know right now that if we don’t play hard for 60 minutes it’s going to be very hard for us to win,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said about his team being nothing special. “We need to play smarter for 60 minutes. We’re playing hard. If we play smarter we’re going to give ourselves even a better chance to win.”
The NFC West-leading Cardinals could get better? Well, yeah.
Though the team’s defense ranks first in the NFL against the run, it is a less-good 31st against the pass. And while the offense has been good enough most of the time, it is 21st when it comes to throwing the ball and 26th when running it.
Some may view that as a positive, that the Cardinals have gotten off to this good start without playing great football. Others may see it in a negative light, instead believing sooner or later the winning will stop unless the team improves.
At any rate, the Cardinals are on top of a division that features the defending Super Bowl champions as well as the Super Bowl runner-up from the season before. But there is a lot of football left to be played, starting Sunday against the Eagles.
“It gets a little stronger,” Arians said of the schedule from here on out. “Each week is going to be a challenge. Obviously, we feel there’s no one on the schedule we can’t beat, and there’s nobody on the schedule that can’t beat us.
“It’s going to be a daily grind getting ready for each ball game. Philly’s a big challenge. We lost a close one over there last year to them. They have an excellent attack and a solid defense, so it’ll be a great challenge and we expect a great crowd to help us along the way.”
Things of Note
– Arians said Calais Campbell, who suffered a strained MCL in the team’s loss to Denver, has “a chance” to get back on the practice field this week.
– Arians noted that Stepfan Taylor, who ran for 40 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns against the Raiders, did not show him anything new. The coach said the second-year back from Stanford is “dependable” and “very hard to bring down inside the 10-yard line.”
– Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro said he told his college coach Dabo Swinney at Clemson he was going to “break records” if given a shot to be the team’s kicker. He got that shot, and proceeded to leave Clemson as the school’s all-time leading scorer. Currently 15-for-15 on field goal attempts to start his pro career, he said he’s not a real superstitious guy when it comes to his kicking and instead just wants to keep focusing on the little things.
“I’m just sticking to that mindset right now and I’ve got to ride this as long as I can,” he said. “I’d love to keep the streak going.”
– Arians had more praise for rookie defensive lineman Ed Stinson, who has helped fill in for the injured Calais Campbell. “In this game, Ed Stinson had a great game — really stepped up two weeks in a row. We gave him a game ball for his performance in this one.”
– When asked how he explains his defense ranking 31st in the league against the pass even with its slew of high-profile players in the secondary, Arians said, “They can’t run. They’re going to throw.” When asked a follow-up question on if the team can win that way, he quipped, “We have so far” before pointing out that statistics do not tell the entire story.