ARIZONA CARDINALS

Loss vs. ‘punch you in the face’ Titans would be telling of Cardinals

Sep 8, 2021, 8:45 PM
FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2021, file photo, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) carries t...

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2021, file photo, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) carries the ball for a touchdown during an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson, File)

(AP Photo/Matt Patterson, File)

The first team is one of the most physical teams in the NFL. The second team wants to get back to being physical.

The Tennessee Titans represent everything Mike Zimmer wants to coach his Minnesota Vikings into becoming. The Titans and Vikings, the first two opponents of the year for the Arizona Cardinals, are the antithesis of the Arizona Cardinals.

The winner of Arizona/Tennessee is one tough game away from being 5-0. The loser will be saying, “It’s early.”

If “it’s early,” is followed by, “the Titans had a good plan for us,” I’m not a believer in Arizona this year.

A Titans Week 1 loss validates the Kliff Kingsbury training camp. The Cardinals chose to go with “camp pillow fight” to get ready for the season. Other teams held joint practices. Some teams played starters many more minutes in preseason games. I attended most Cardinals practices — and I would consider two as physical.

Keep in mind, lots of teams follow a similar plan to training camp as Kingsbury. Mike Vrabel is not the head coach of one of those teams.

Vrabel is the exact opposite of Kingsbury and the Titans are the opposite of the Cardinals. He believes in physical players and a physical camp. If the Cardinals win, there’s an immediate feeling of hope because Arizona would knock off a Super Bowl contender that is widely regarded as a tougher team. Conventional wisdom says there’s no way an “Air Raid” team can beat a “punch you in the face” team. An Arizona win prove it’s ready for the season and makes you feel pretty good about going 3-0 into, coincidentally, the toughest three-game stretch of the season.

You may think it’s not really a big game. You might agree that a win would be huge but maybe you’re thinking with 16 more games, a road loss against the opposing conference spells little doom for the season. I disagree because if the Cardinals can’t handle the physicality of the Tennessee running game, why do you think Dalvin Cook will be a cakewalk? Are you guaranteeing wins against Minnesota and Jacksonville, because there’s no way Arizona could travel to the East Coast and lose to a terrible team with a rookie coach from college — like the Cardinals did last year at Carolina?

Last year, the Twitter police mocked me when I said the early season bad losses will cost the Cardinals when it comes to tie-breakers. Last season, the Cardinals finished tied with the Chicago Bears and lost out on a playoff spot by the tie-breaker of record versus common opponents. That same “record versus common opponents” figures prominently in any tie-breaker with the rest of the NFC West.

Unless you think the Titans will go 0-4 or 4-0 versus the NFC West, a Cardinals win could be a hall pass against one of the toughest teams on every divisional opponent’s schedule.

You can say the Cardinals can easily recover from a loss but do you really think Arizona is going to the playoffs if they start 1-2? I don’t.

Week 1 side note

As I look up and down the Cardinals’ schedule from a travel standpoint, I think the best game to go to is this Sunday. I can see why you might vote “at Jacksonville” as the better option, but let me promote Nashville to you.

The best nightlife of any NFL city for the money is Nashville. It’s not as expensive as cities on the coast, but you’ll have an incredible weekend. Great restaurants and things to do — plus a fanbase that is respectful to everyone makes it a great place to see the Cardinals.

It’s one of the best feelings as a sports fan to travel and see your team win. Unfortunately, for me, it’s incredibly rare. Sadly, there’s almost always one consistent pattern for my team: they lose.

It happened again this weekend. With a little more freedom on my hands, I decided to take my daughter to see the biggest home game in Ohio football history.

To many of you, Syracuse coming to Sun Devil Stadium probably gets you only slightly more excited than Southern Utah. To a fan of a lowly MAC school, getting an ACC school to sign a contract is a monumental moment.

My travel history is so bad, I should have known I would affect the outcome. Ohio kicked three field goals for the entire extent of their offense, which is total par for my course. As a Mets fan in my early 20s (long story), I traveled to Shea Stadium. Anthony Young set the record for the most consecutive losses by a starting pitcher.

I’ve been to eight D-backs road games. They’re 1-7 with me in the stands. Syracuse will probably have a dismal season, and every time I look at the score of one of their losses, I’ll be reminded I paid to see a horribly boring 29-9 beatdown.

If you can afford to go to a Cardinals road game, choose this week — but you’ll enjoy it a lot more without me.

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Loss vs. ‘punch you in the face’ Titans would be telling of Cardinals