Maybe it's outlandish to believe that the Arizona Cardinals can make the playoffs this season. After all, the roster that first-year general manager Monti Ossenfort assembled ranks as one of the NFL's worst. Nevertheless, it's much more fun to watch the squad play every week when you believe that a postseason appearance remains a possibility.
Head coach Jonathan Gannon's group has added to those hopes by being competitive in all four of their games thus far. In fact, many observers are convinced that the 1-3 Redbirds could just as easily be sitting at 3-1 after the first month. However, a loss this week against the Cincinnati Bengals could put any chance of a playoff spot in the rearview mirror for the better-than-expected Cardinals.
Incidentally, the Bengals find themselves in the exact same situation as the Cards. Quarterback Joe Burrow, fresh off of inking a $275 million contract-extension, has led his teammates to just one win in four tries. That triumph came back in Week 3, when Cincy squeaked out a 19-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
Arizona Cardinals will be looking to the home crowd for support this coming weekend
Something will have to break when Arizona and Cincinnati do battle in Week 5. "Big Red" will be rocking their all-black uniforms for the first time. How nice would it be for the home team if the "Red Sea" can actually outnumber their opponent's fans for once in State Farm Stadium?
The truth is, Burrow has been slowed the entire year by a strained calf he suffered during training camp. Star wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase has been greatly affected by the signal-caller's injury. In four matchups, Chase is averaging an ugly 9.8 yards per reception, and has yet to reach the end zone for the Bengals.
With a home crowd behind them, the Cardinals pass rush could potentially tee off on a hobbled Burrow. At the same time, Josh Dobbs and the scoring attack could have yet another productive outing versus the Cincinnati defense. The Bengals have yielded 23.5 points per matchup, and are also allowing a hefty 364.3 yards per contest.
Both Arizona and Cincinnati will be facing a must-win scenario this weekend. The Cards would love nothing more than to reward the fanbase with a trip to the postseason in January. That dream will pretty much be crushed if the club can't find a way to beat the Bengals on Sunday.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference and TeamRankings.com)