It was roughly one year ago where the Cardinals, fresh off an inconsistent 9-7 season, were getting ready to face the upstart Atlanta Falcons in a first round playoff game.
Going into the team’s first home playoff game since moving to Arizona, I had supreme confidence that the Cardinals would protect their home field and advance to the next round. Where they would go from there, of course, I had no idea (though I felt they would lose to Carolina), but I would have been fine with them bowing out – as long as they won that initial game. A Super Bowl run later and, wow, things have changed.
With a Sunday date with the Packers looming I find myself not just concerned that the Cardinals may not win, but also upset at the thought of a one-and-done playoff appearance.
Don’t get me wrong, demanding a Super Bowl appearance is not just foolish, but wrong as well. As much as I would like to see the team take a trip to play in Miami, I am fully aware of what it takes to get there. One needs to look no further than one season ago when, seemingly, everything fell the Cardinals’ way during the playoffs.
The first round featured a match-up at home against a decent-but-not-great Falcons team with a rookie QB, the second a road date against a Panthers team that the Cards nearly beat during the regular season and were led by an inconsistent Jake Delhomme (remember that guy?) and then, finally, they had the fortune of getting to play the NFC Championship game at home by way of the Eagles beating the New York Giants on the road. Once it got to that point, I think most of us knew the Cards were heading to Tampa, as there was no way they were losing that game at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Now this season the Cardinals face a Packers team that has won 7 of its last 8 games, is led by one of the best quarterbacks in the league, has an opportunistic defense with a shut-down cornerback in Charles Woodson, and really has no obvious weaknesses. Oh, and did I mention they’ve already played the Cardinals twice this year in Glendale and looked great in a pair of wins?
But, as I back away from the ledge for a moment, it is worth noting that the Cards, in both losses to the Packers, had nothing to play for, and we’ve seen just how bad the Cardinals are sans motivation. Conversely, we know that a motivated Cardinals team is as dangerous as any in the league, given that they have the talent to match-up with anybody.
One year ago we had no idea how good the Cardinals really were or how good they could be. Knowing what the Cardinals are capable of, right or wrong, changes the fans’ mindset from just happy to be in the playoffs to expecting a lengthy postseason run. At this point it would be hard to just enjoy the ride.
Whether the Cardinals lose Sunday, win the Super Bowl, or finish somewhere in between, the question I have for fans is: Are you ready for what’s to come?
Adam can be reached with your questions and comments by e-mail here.