Arizona Cardinals are still one of the NFL’s rising teams

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Arizona Cardinals find themselves at 6-6 after a stellar 6-3 start to the season that also included a brief NFC West lead.

Now the wheels have come off and the Arizona Cardinals are fighting for their playoff lives as the season reaches its final quarter. But this team has come a long way since that disastrous 2018 season in which they finished 3-13 and held the first overall pick.

Despite a 5-10-1 record in 2019, the team turned a few heads. They garnered even more attention when they traded for DeAndre Hopkins, drafted jack-of-all-trades Isaiah Simmons, and locked several key players like Budda Baker into long-term deals.

After a 5-2 start that included a thrilling win over the Seattle Seahawks, everyone thought the Cardinals would outperform expectations. Then reality struck, and the Cardinals are now 1-4 since and could easily be 0-5 if it wasn’t for a Hail Murray against the Buffalo Bills.

Okay, so the Cards have hit a rough patch. It happens to a lot of NFL teams who were or are in a complete overhaul. And you only need to point to recent history for other NFL franchises. Take the Cleveland Browns, who are one year ahead of the Cardinals in the rebuild process. Cleveland stumbled and bumbled late last season that included a loss to the Cardinals. Now they’re 9-3 and in contention to win their first division title since 1989.

We can point to other examples, but we’ll leave it there. The point is the Cardinals have both a coach who has put this team in contention to at least scrape the sixth or seventh seed in the playoffs. They have a franchise quarterback, a cornerstone receiver, and a pack of either proven or up and coming players on defense.

Sure, holes exist. Neither Patrick Peterson nor Dre Kirkpatrick are the players they once were. Jordan Hicks and DeVondre Campbell, while effective, probably aren’t long-term answers at their positions. Chandler Jones has scraped the age thirty mark. And Devon Kennard has underperformed.

But Haason Reddick, if the Cardinals keep him, can be a puzzle piece. Isaiah Simmons has caught on in recent weeks. Baker is one of the best in the game at his position. Leki Fotu was making plays in the week thirteen blowout against the Rams.

Next. Cardinals get owned by Rams. dark

So yeah, here the Cardinals stand at an ailing 6-6, their momentum from one month ago gone, and their playoff hopes fading. But on the upside, this team is a far cry from what they were in 2018. They’re better than they were in 2019. And the truth is, they have played some of the NFL’s best teams well in 2020.

It shows that they’re just a few pieces away from contending with the league’s best teams. Growing pains and stagnation is just part of the process. Keep the proven puzzle pieces in place, and this time next season you will see a contending Cardinals team.