Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks produced a predictions column claiming that 6 new teams will in the NFL Playoffs in 2009 and 6 old ones will be out. According to Banks, among those entering the playoff fray will be New England, Buffalo, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, and San Francisco. Apparently San Fran will be entering the playoffs at the expense of….you guessed it…the Arizona Cardinals.
Banks’ reasoning for the 49ers cracking the playoff party is as follows:
The 49ers finished the season at 5-2 in their last seven games under interim head coach Mike Singletary, and that’s almost always going to earn you chic-pick, team-on-the-rise status heading into the following season. But there is something about Singletary’s old-school approach that seems to be exactly what the lackadaisical 49ers have lacked in recent years.
5-2 in the last 7 is pretty impressive, I’ll grant Banks that, so let’s move on to what Banks had to say about the Cardinals falling out of the playoffs:
Arizona won on the strength of its 6-0 record in the NFC West last year, and that better not slip by more than a game or two in 2009, because I think the 7-9 49ers, 4-12 Seahawks and 2-14 Rams all are great bets to better last year’s win totals. For the most part, the Cardinals had a status quo offseason, and that usually translates to a lack of improvement in the NFL.
OK Banksie (or Donnie Brasco as Peter King so annoyingly calls you), now I’ve got a few issues:
- The Super Bowl loser hang-over notwithstanding, the Cardinals closed the season 4-1, with that one loss being in the previously mentioned Super Bowl. I’d say wins over the Falcons, Panthers, and Eagles is a pretty strong close to the season.
- The Cards are taking it on the chin from Banks (and everyone else) for going 6-0 against the NFC West. Now I agree that those wins were THE reason the Cards got an opportunity to make their Super Bowl run in the first place, but care to take a look at San Francisco’s 5 wins they put up in those vaunted 7 games – Rams, Bills, Jets, Rams, and Redskins. If you’re fooled by the wins over the 9-7 Jets, 7-9 Bills, or 8-8 Redskins, don’t be. The Jets were in the middle of a 1-4 tailspin behind a banged-up Brett Favre, Buffalo closed 2-7 after a 5-1 start, and the ‘Skins finished 2-6 after their 6-2 beginning. Not exactly a murderer’s row off which to base your predictions for the Niners in ’09.
- Finally, to say the Cardinals had a “status quo” off-season is a little bit irritating, pretty lazy, and just flat out wrong. Lets begin with the offensive side of the ball. The Cards kept Kurt Warner and have yet to give into the trade demands of Anquan Boldin, not to mention adding Ohio State running back Beanie Wells to beef up the league’s worst running game. Oh and there is that Fitzgerald fellow who seems to continue getting better and if I remember correctly had a decent little post-season. Arizona’s offense was frightening all season and particularly in the playoffs when the media informed us that they had a running game. Newsflash – the “running game” was still only good for a 91.5 yard per game average in the playoffs, which would have sat them 30th if you extrapolated out for the regular season. Now picture Wells, a bowling ball of a runner who just happens to run a sub 4.5 40 yard dash, getting the ball when the Cards split 3 wide (as they do on most downs). Anytime the Cards go to a more than 2 wide receiver set you better believe the defense is going to a nickel, which means one less linebacker for Wells to have to run over. The offense is going to be fun to watch.
- As for the defense, the Cards lost Antonio Smith, Rod Hood, and Travis LaBoy, while adding Bryant McFadden. Since Arizona is switching to a 3-4, the need for Smith – particularly at the price the Texans paid him – was unnecessary. Calais Campbell should be able to fill in ably. LaBoy and Hood on the other hand were released for good reason – LaBoy was constantly injured while Rod Hood…well he just sucked. McFadden will give the Cardinals a strong #2 cornerback to pair with Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and is a MAJOR upgrade over Hood. All that being said, it’s a little tough to call the off-season “status quo.”
Now I’m not one to say that a writer has a bias against a specific team, because frankly that is a little ridiculous, but check out some of Banks’ articles/comments on the Cardinals:
- 1/30/09 – Banks provides 5 reasons why the Steelers will win the Super Bowl.
- 1/14/09 – Banks picks the Eagles to win the NFC Championship providing this gem: “…the Eagles having to only beat the Cardinals for a trip to the Super Bowl might be the most improbable turn of events we’ve seen yet in the whole wild ride that has been the McNabb era in Philly”
- 12/31/09 – My personal favorite quote : “Sense any pattern there? To repeat myself, Arizona ranks as the worst NFL playoff team in recent history. One and done, over and out.” That’s right. Good times.
- 12/24/09 – Cardinals ranked 20th in final regular season power rankings. 20th. Behind such super teams as the previously mentioned Redskins, along with the Broncos, Saints, Jets, Bucs, and Cowboys, all of which missed the playoffs.
I could go back through the rest of his columns but I assume you’re no longer reading, so just take my word for it when I say there is a lot more where that came from.
Now it’s my turn to end this rant with a prediction of my own: The Arizona Cardinals will repeat as NFC West champs in 2009.
* …ability to lose repeatedly.