Arizona Cardinals playing down to competition

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Kyler Murray
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Kyler Murray /

The Arizona Cardinals have become the best in the NFL at playing down to their competition.

Since the 2020 season began, the Arizona Cardinals have lost four of their seven games against teams with far less talent. You can go back to week three, where the Cardinals allowed the lowly Detroit Lions snap an 11-game losing streak during a pedestrian performance in a game they should have won.

Then came the week four tilt against the Carolina Panthers, where the Cardinals fell to Earth in an abysmal performance in a 31-21 loss. The score of the Carolina game was much further apart than the final indicated.

Sure, the then-5-2 Cardinals lost to the then-4-3 Miami Dolphins, but we’ll give the Red Birds a pass on that one. The Dolphins have since turned the corner and on paper and were a team on the rise even before that duel in the desert.

In week 12, the Cardinals looked light years ahead of the New England Patriots on paper. And things appeared to be in sync when they jumped out to a 10-0 lead early. You know what happened, and the Pats outscored the Cards 20-7 the rest of the way, losing to yet another lesser talented football team.

Today, the Cardinals have solidified their status as the best in the league at playing to their competition. An injury-riddled 49ers team walked into Glendale and forced the Cards into their worst offensive performance all season.

And while Niners kicker Robby Gould singlehandedly tried to give the game to the Cardinals with two missed field goals and a missed extra point, the Cards couldn’t convert. And given the way they’ve let lesser talented teams slip through their grasp, does it really surprise you?

On the flip side, the Cards have beaten some teams that last season they would have otherwise had no business hanging with just a few seasons ago. They won in a thriller against the Seattle Seahawks and lost a nail-biter just a few weeks later.

We can’t forget about the Hail Murray in week 10 against the Buffalo Bills, and even the week one upset over the Niners, who at the time was still among the NFL’s most relevant franchises. So the Cardinals have proven they can play with the NFL’s best.

But they’ve also proven that so far in their rebuild, they’re still not a lock to win. Yeah, they’ve beaten plenty of teams they should have beaten, including a 4-0 sweep of the NFC East and a 30-10 beatdown against the New York Jets.

Next. Cardinals blow huge opportunity. dark

If the Cardinals want to take the next step, they need to do a better job at beating teams they’re supposed to beat. Until that day comes, the Cardinals will remain stuck in mediocrity.