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Green: Reasonable expectations?

Expectations.

They can drive some to greatness while leaving others in the dust of disappointment, lumped with other “failures.”

Now, coming off the team’s first Super Bowl appearance ever with what seems to be a strong hold on the NFC West and thus, a playoff spot, what are the expectations for the Arizona Cardinals?

The unfortunate reality facing the team is that there is technically only one way to improve on last season, and that is winning the Super Bowl.

Of course, as things go on the difficulty scale, winning the big game ranks right up there with winning the lottery, getting struck by lightning, or playing defense in the NBA.

OK, maybe the last one is not as hard, but from watching a certain Valley pro basketball team in recent years, one would never realize that.

Back on topic, of course Cardinals fans want their team to get back to – and win – the Super Bowl, but is that a realistic expectation for the 2009 Red Birds?

With what seems to be a better team on paper, newfound confidence and an understanding of what it takes to play (and beat) the league’s elite, it is certainly understandable to expect nothing short of a Lombardi Trophy.

But going with a “Super Bowl or bust” attitude is not only unfair to yourself and the team, but likely to leave you with an empty feeling when the season does end. That isn’t to say that I don’t think the Cardinals can make it back, rather it is just so damn hard to get to there.

Realistically the team should be expected to win somewhere between 11-13 games and look good in the process. After an up-and-down year that saw them win 9 regular season games, the Cardinals looked like a completely different team in the postseason, and that’s the team I want to see for 16 weeks this season. If they do this they should earn themselves a first-round bye in the playoffs and at least one home game.

But, all that could happen and the Cards still could not find themselves in Miami playing in Super Bowl XLIV. Plenty of things could happen that would lead to the Cardinals not taking a trip to South Beach, including the “Super Bowl runner up curse.”

As it goes, since 1997 the Patriots, Bears, Eagles, Panthers, Raiders, Rams, Giants and Falcons all failed to make the playoffs the season after losing in the Super Bowl.

Granted, there are a variety of reasons why those teams failed to play past week 17 the year after losing the Super Bowl, with injuries being the biggest factor.

In a sport like football where injuries are prevalent, it is imperative to have good depth and good fortune to make it through the season. Not to say the Cardinals had both during their magical run, but it was no small miracle that Kurt Warner remained vertical for all 16 regular season and four playoff games.

So, even with what seems like a more talented team on paper and a more seasoned squad on the field, plenty has to go right for the Cardinals to reach and surpass the heights that they found last year. And, if it doesn’t happen, how will you view the 2009 Arizona Cardinals?