Why the Cardinals are (probably) better off not winning the NFC West

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

Based on their performances on their home field so far this season, the Arizona Cardinals might be better off as a wild card team in the playoffs.

On Monday, the Arizona Cardinals fell to 3-3 at home in 2021 after a loss to the Los Angeles Rams. That said, they shouldn’t win the NFC West and get a home playoff game. Or home-field advantage throughout if they snag the top seed. What’s the point, considering recent history? The Cardinals, despite a 10-3 record, have been abysmal on their home turf.

If Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph makes his last-second field goal in Week 2, Arizona would be 2-4 at home instead of 3-3. Flashback to Week 5, and the Cardinals had a tough time putting away a banged-up San Francisco 49ers team at State Farm Stadium.

In 2020, Arizona had a problem playing down to their competition. In 2021, they can’t win in their own building.

At home, the Cardinals let the Carolina Panthers, a franchise that appears to be in turmoil, embarrass them within the confines of State Farm Stadium. Yeah, you can argue they were missing Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. Only they won the other two games (on the road) without Murray and Hopkins by a combined score of 54-30.

Arizona Cardinals have dominated on the road this season

While Arizona is 3-8 all-time on the road in the playoffs, they are road warriors in 2021. They’re so good when playing in venues not named State Farm Stadium. Their combined score against opponents in those seven wins is 230-118. No, that’s not a typo.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, the Cardinals are probably better off letting the Rams win the NFC West.

Want another fun fact pertaining to Arizona’s performance at home? They have only won a single game in State Farm Stadium by more than one possession in 2021. It came against the lowly Houston Texans in a game where they fell behind 5 to 0 in the first quarter.

On the road, the Cardinals have beaten plenty of playoff contenders such as the Rams, 49ers, Tennessee Titans, and Cleveland Browns. Oh, and they also won each of the aforementioned games by at least two scores. Perhaps more if they didn’t ease up in garbage time.

Teams play to gain home-field advantage in the playoffs. And yeah, Arizona can still get it together at home as the season enters its final month. They can lose on the road in the wild-card round and watch the Super Bowl at home. Anything can happen, and it’s why you play the game.

But recent history shows the Cardinals can and will continue to dominate on the road. The true test comes in Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys. I wish that game would have been slated for Week 16 and the final two home games for Weeks 17 and 18.

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That way, if the Cardinals dominated the Dallas game, they could rest their starters for the final two games of the season and cede the division to the Rams. Hey, whatever it takes to bring a Lombardi Trophy to Arizona.