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The Cardinals have the Valley in rarified air

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) celebrates his touchdown with teammate Mike Iupati during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Power Polls all say they’re the best.

The analytics say they’re the favorite.

Now the most important voice, the Vegas oddsmakers, say the Cardinals are the co-favorites to win the Super Bowl.

On a weekend where everybody else in the conversation – Seattle, New England, Carolina – lost and the Cardinals won a laugher over a double-digit win team in the Packers, the Cardinals find themselves in an unusual spot; at the front of the line.

As, gasp, the “Team to Beat”.

Have Phoenix sports fans ever enjoyed such a status? writer Craig Morgan took a look at other major Phoenix teams that finished the regular season with the first or second best record in their league.

Short list. The Suns did it in the 1992-93; 2004-05; and 2006-07 seasons.

Let’s take it to the next level. Have we ever had the “Team to Beat”?

It’s a highly subjective conversation.

Before the playoffs began were the 2001 D-backs the “Team to Beat”? Not with the mighty Yankees looming.

Kurt Warner’s Super Bowl Cardinals team was the so-called worst playoff team ever.

I don’t remember feeling like Jake Plummer’s ASU team was the favorite to win the national championship even though they were undefeated.

For me, and again, this is entirely debatable the two teams that come the closest were Charles Barkley’s Suns teams after they lost in the Finals to the Bulls and the 2006-07 Suns team.

Barkley and the Suns were never going to beat Michael Jordan but the minute MJ’s baseball career began certainly the argument could be made the Suns were the “Team to Beat”.

As for 06-07, the Suns enjoyed a 61-win season, but recall the Mavs had 67. Maybe not the team to beat before the Mavs were upset by the Warriors, but certainly after. That “Team to Beat” was done in by Robert Horry’s hip, Amar’e Stoudamire’s bad decision and David Stern’s letter of the law.

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