Archive for Arizona Cardinals

The Only Things Worse Than My Picks Is Putting Faith In Bad Coaches

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2010 by thelasthonestman

My record on my picks has been so bad, I should have just been flipping one of these instead

Another weekend gone, another trail of carnage left behind known as my NFL playoff selections.

This week was only slightly better than last; I’m left with another 1-3 mark, with my only silver lining being that I at least picked the winner of the Indy-Baltimore game correctly, though I missed with my call of the Ravens covering the spread.

So what’s this week’s excuse (or lesson learned, as I’d prefer to call it) for my putrid predictions?  Simply put, it was putting faith in coaches who, over the season (or seasons), I’ve derided for a number of reasons.  If those coaches weren’t worthy of my confidence before, why would I possibly think that they would be now?  Answer: they shouldn’t have been, and it showed up this past weekend for a few key moments that set the tone for a least two of my picks going south.  Cases in point:

— I’ve been on Ravens head coach John Harbaugh all season for his bizarre willingness to pull his best offensive player in Ray Rice off of the field in so many instances, particularly crucial points in games when the team in inside the opponent’s red zone.  His stubbornness in that regard arguably cost Baltimore their first meeting against the Colts in the regular season, and having apparently not learned his lesson then, Harbaugh repeated his mistake early in their playoff rematch, squandering an opportunity for Baltimore to take control of the game and set the tone then —  and possibly blowing the team’s chances at springing the upset.

Not that I was that surprised, as on Friday, I said, “Will [Rice] be used to his utmost capability, or will there be a maddening moment Saturday where Willis McGahee is in the game instead and the offense stalls?”  That moment came on the Ravens first drive.  After the Colts stalled out in their first drive, settling for a field goal, the Ravens drove the field to put themselves 10 yards away from a go-ahead touchdown, which would have gone a long way towards unsettling the crowd and putting some doubt in the Colts’ minds coming off their ill-advised, end-of-the-season shutdown mode.  This was a key point in the game — score a TD here, especially after they hadn’t gotten into the end zone at all in their first meeting, and we might have been looking at an entirely different contest.  Instead, out of the game went Rice, in time to watch McGahee get stuffed and two incompletions thrown by Flacco result in a field goal instead.  One of the incompletions was a little swing pass that went right through the hands of fullback LeRon McClain — if it had been Rice, the team’s leading receiver on the year, on the end of that pass, then it likely would have been touchdown Baltimore, and who knows what might have happened after that.  My mistake in going with Baltimore to even cover was ignoring that Harbaugh looks like he’s incapable of learning from prior mistakes.

— And my mistake in picking Dallas to win against Minnesota was, among many things, thinking that a Wade Phillips coaches team was going to put together three straight playoff wins, including two that would have needed to be on the road.  Phillips is a nice enough guy, and he’s a great defensive mind — but his time as the head man  in Dallas (and Denver and Buffalo) should have been enough to convince anyone that he just doesn’t have it in him to be a leader of a championship team.

The key moment in the Minnesota game was early in the first quarter, when after driving down to the Vikings 30 yard line and facing a 4th and a yard (or less), Phillips sent in recently-acquired kicker Shawn Suisham in to attempt a 48-yard field goal.  This, of course, is the same Suisham who was cut earlier in the season by Washington after shanking a chip-shot field goal that cost the Redskins an upset win against New Orleans.  My immediate reaction to seeing Suisham coming onto the field was, “Of course, he’s going to miss this.”  It didn’t help matters for Dallas when Favre connected with Sidney Rice four plays later on a long TD pass either.

You’re on the road, you’re going to need to get into the end zone to win, and you’ve been moving the ball pretty well — so why not go for it if you’re Phillips?  The answer:  well, because you’re Wade Phillips.  Duh.  Unfortunately, I forgot that and put too much stock into Dallas’ back-to-back drubbings of the Eagles.

Why again did I think this guy was going to lead a team to the Super Bowl?

— And finally, there’s the latest flame-out in Southern California as Norv Turner’s Chargers, a trendy Super-Bowl pick with a lot of people (including me), went down to defeat to those pesky, underdog Jets — a loss highlighted by a three missed field-goals by Nate Kaeding, LT looking as washed up as we should have expected him to look, and a terrible decision by the Chargers to onside kick at the end of the game.  All told, it was a brutal display by San Diego, and considering that failures like these in the playoffs are what got Marty Schottenheimer’s ticket punched, Turner and company could easily be looking for new jobs following the Super Bowl.

How bad was it for San Diego?  Where does one begin?  Questionable play-calling, a complete lack of fire or emotion for much of the game from the Chargers, no sense of urgency at any point of the game, the Kaeding meltdown — you can take your pick of lowlights.  But I’ll focus on the onside kick decision by Turner as the coup-de-grace.

You’re trailing by a field goal, and you can stop the clock twice (once with a timeout, the other with the two-minute warning).  Why not kick away if you’re Turner?  Pin the Jets deep, stop them, and you’re getting the ball back with enough time to complete a couple of passes to get yourself back into field goal range (though the way Kaeding was going, there’s no reason to expect that would have been a good thing).

By attempting the onside kick and not recovering, you’re not only going to give your offense a longer field to have to navigate with no timeouts if you get the ball back, but you’re also giving the Jets the option to use all four-downs to close the game out on you.  4th and short and pinned inside of your own 30 and only up by 3?  You’re punting the ball every time , even if you only need an inch of two to get the 1st down.  But put yourself in San Diego territory, too far away for a field goal but too close to bother with punting, and you’re giving a team with a great offensive line and a power running game the chance to seal the win by gaining a measly yard — which is exactly what happened.

As the Chargers had emerged in the season’s 2nd half as a title favorite, I had trouble reconciling that with my long-held skepticism of Turner’s capabilities as the head coach.  One of my favorite Turner stories is this one from ESPN’s Bill Simmons — if I had only remembered things like that tale, I’m probably not picking the Chargers to win on Sunday.  But I didn’t, so I did — and as they say, that’s why I’m looking up at another brutal week in picks.

— My only bright side was in watching the Saints dismantle the Cardinals in the first Saturday game.  New Orleans is definitely my sentimental rooting favorite at this point, and it was nice to see them get some of the edge back that they’d seemingly lost at the end of the regular season.  The “bad” Arizona team showed up on Saturday, and New Orleans took full advantage, scoring at will and harassing Kurt Warner all game long.  Cardinal turnovers were key as predicted, starting right off with the fumble by Jerheme Urban on the team’s first play of their second possession.  Of course, Urban was only playing because Anquan Boldin was still out with the injury suffered when he was on the field against Green Bay in the season’s finale, even after the other starters had been pulled, so Ken Whisenhunt has no one to blame for that misfortune but himself.

On the other sideline, someone should congratulate Reggie Bush on escaping captivity and replacing the imposter that’s taken his place on the Saints roster until now.  The Bush we saw on Saturday was unlike one Saints fans have seen but few times before — a tough, aggressive runner who was a threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball.  This Bush should be a huge weapon for the Saints against the Vikings this upcoming weekend.

Despite my terrible mark so far, I’m not giving up on my picks — I’ll be back at the end of the week for my selections to go to Miami.  On the bright side, I can’t really do any worse — can I?  Then again, maybe I shouldn’t answer that.

Advertisements

NFL Playoffs Week 2 Picks, Part One

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2010 by thelasthonestman

If you’re looking for 2011 playoff predictions, then you’re in the wrong place — click here to get to my current picks!

So let’s try this again, shall we?

When this is your action figure, you shouldn't be surprised you're not the player you used to be

There’s no need to cry over the spilled milk that were my selections for last week’s games — I did that already a couple of days ago.  On the bright side, I guess, is that it could have been even worse — I could have gone 0-4 like ESPN’s Bill Simmons did.  So there’s that small victory — in your face, Sports Guy — in your face!  Since that’s been said, I’ll remind myself that he has a prominent job writing for a major national sports network and I … well … I currently do not.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so pleased with myself for that 1-3 mark after all.  Instead, I’ll slink back in my chair and concentrate on making my picks for this week with the goal of actually breaking .500 — though, I will do so with a sense of satisfaction that in his column this week the Sports Guy used a version of the “LaDainian Tomlinson is so washed up, that even his McFarlane action figure is of him sitting on the bench” joke I’ve been running into the ground for two years (and that I sent to him earlier in the year when he was bemoaning having drafted LT2 on his fantasy football team).

So without further ado, it’s on to this week’s selections — which let’s face it, after last week’s mess, can’t be filling you with any sense of confidence in what I’m about to say.  Heck, as wacky as last week was in many a sense, I don’t have a lot of confidence in what I’m going with — but here it is anyway:

New Orleans (-7) over Arizona

The truth be told, I don’t particularly like either of these teams.  In fact, there’s only one team left in the playoffs I really do have a good feeling for, and it’s not in the NFC (that’s San Diego).  Rather than focus on the positives for both of these clubs, it’s a whole lot easier for me to focus on the negatives.

If the Saints need this guy to win against Arizona this week, who do they sign next? George Rogers?

First, New Orleans:  I don’t like how the Saints finished the season, particularly the troubling home loss to Tampa Bay; I don’t like the way they mailed in the last game of the season, when it was clear to me that their offensive rhythm had been off in the losses to the Cowboys and the Bucs; I don’t like the way Sean Payton used his running backs (too little Pierre Thomas, too much of the mediocre Mike Bell, too much ball-handling from Reggie Bush as a conventional ball carrier), and I certainly don’t like whatever the signing Deuce McAllister means; and I don’t like the heavy injuries that the Saints have suffered on the defensive side of the ball.

On the other hand, I still don’t like the Cardinals inconsistency, and their ability to follow up a great effort with a mail-it-in performance; I don’t like the Cardinals defense, which was shredded by Aaron Rodgers and the Pack last weekend, I don’t like Arizona having to play in one of the most hostile settings left in the NFL for a visiting team, the Superdome;  I don’t like that Anquan Boldin is still not going to be 100% for this week, and I really don’t like Arizona’s chances if something should knock Kurt Warner out of the game and Matt Leinart has to exit the hot tub and put the Cards chances on his shoulders.

I do love Warner, though, and what he’s done for the Arizona franchise, as well as Saints’ QB Drew Brees (who may be as responsible as any one person for saving professional football in the Big Easy).  I think this game is going to be as much of a shootout as the Green Bay-Arizona tilt was.  I’m going to go with New Orleans both because of the home field, as well as the fact that the Cardinals have the propensity to turn the ball over a lot more — particularly in those “mail-it-in” type of games.  I think Arizona comes out flat, and it’s all downhill from there.  Saints advance to the NFC title game.

Baltimore (+6.5) over Indianapolis

Come on now!  If you’re been a regular reader, you already knew how I felt about the Colts disgraceful tanking act in the season’s last two weeks — and what I thought it signaled for their playoff chances; this pick shouldn’t surprise you in the slightest.  Except for the fact that I’m not expecting (or predicting) Baltimore to actually win this game, merely to cover the spread.  (Which I’m surprised is as low as it apparently is.  Shouldn’t a team that was 14-0 and flirting with immortality at one point be more than a touchdown favorite over a team that barely finished over .500, squeaked into the playoffs, and wasn’t picked by too many people to even win last week?  What does that say about the vibe surrounding the Colts right now?)

The Ravens dominated the Patriots in the playoffs in a way we haven’t seen happen in more than decade, and they did it with a heavy dose of the run.  The problem for Baltimore is that they’re still going to need to get something out of Joe Flacco if they hope to beat the Colts — 4 completions for 34 yards just ain’t gonna cut it — and I’m not sure if the second-year quarterback has it in him.  Flacco has had his moments over the season where he’s looked more than capable, however, so a much better performance by the youngster is certainly possible.   In the end, though, the key to the Ravens offense will be Ray Rice — can the Colts stop him (they held him in check — 71 yards on 20 carries — in their first meeting), and will he be used to his utmost capability (or will there be a maddening moment Saturday where Willis McGahee is in the game instead and the offense stalls)?

Indy and their reaction to having essentially three weeks off is the real x-factor here.  I expect they’ll come out rusty and with their timing in the passing game off, so a repeat of the two teams’ earlier low-scoring match-up — won by the Colts 17-15 in Baltimore when the Ravens simply couldn’t put it in the end zone (punctuated by a bizarre sequence near the goal-line where McGahee was stuffed a billion times and even Flacco tried to carry it in, but Rice was inexplicably on the sidelines) — is likely.  The Ravens have to be confident, thinking they should have won that game — but what will the mindset of the Colts players be?  I predicted that Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell’s “spit in history’s face” strategy was going to backfire on them by arguably raising the pressure on the Colts in the playoffs — we could well see the results of that if, let’s say, Baltimore jumps out early on them the way they did on the Patriots.  If that happens — well, it could get real ugly at Lucas Oil Stadium.  I’m hoping for it simply to see the reaction of the Colts faithful in that case — it could get Kiffin–leaving-Tennessee ugly if the Colts do lose.

But as much as I’ll be rooting for that, I don’t think Indianapolis goes down — yet (we’ll save that for next week).  Baltimore still makes too many mistakes, and commits too many penalties (which they then whine too much about) to win a game like this in the playoffs.  Can Baltimore pull off the upset?  While I think it’s possible, it’s more likely that a dumb pass interference call — or Willis McGahee getting stuffed three plays in a row from the 1 late in the game — is the key play in the game that sends the Ravens back home and the Colts to the AFC title game.  Baltimore covers in a close one — but Indy squeezes by to hold their critics off for another week.

That’s just the Saturday games — click here for Part Two and the predictions for Sunday’s games.

Le Boo Coaching … Errr … Stupid Playoff Picks Revisited

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Yep -- that's about the way I felt after almost all of my weekend picks went down in flames

Whoops.

And to think, it started so well Saturday afternoon, with the Jets running over the Bengals the way I thought they would.   Alas, it would not last.

So I posted a pretty ugly 1-3 mark on my Wild Card playoff predictions this weekend, and rather than give out a Le Boo coaching award, I figured I deserved the Le Boo for some pretty bad selections.  Where did it all go wrong?

— At least I was right about the Jets and Bengals.  I heard several times going into the match-up that the two teams were “mirror images” of one another.  Well, if you ignore the fact that the Jets have a better overall rushing attack and a better overall defense — yeah, I guess they were.  The Jets did everything they needed to do to win, and Mark Sanchez played impressively, putting up solid numbers (which would have been even better if iron-hands Braylon Edwards hadn’t dropped an easy TD pass) and not turning the ball over.  I said the Bengals just weren’t all that good, and they proved it pretty convincingly.

— My fatal mistake in picking Philadelphia to at least cover against Dallas was simple.  I talked beforehand about how inconsistent both the Cowboys and the Eagles had been in 2009, but what I ignored was what should have been common sense: when two inconsistent teams play each other, and one of them has at least been consistent in beating the tar out of the other, then it’s probably a pretty easy bet that you’re going to see a repeat performance.   Dallas had destroyed the Eagles the week before — why did I possibly think this rematch would be any different?  Ugh … especially since …

— … I predicted Green Bay to bring the whuppin’ stick back out against Arizona.  So what happened here?  The one thing that changed from my Friday picks and the game Sunday afternoon was the breaking news that Cards quarterback Kurt Warner was contemplating hanging up the cleats after this year’s playoffs end.  I’ve accused Arizona of playing with no heart at times this year — what better form of motivation for them than trying to bring home another title for Warner, as well-liked as any player in the NFL?  Whether you want to credit that — or the fact that the Green Bay secondary seemed completely incapable of covering anyone — for Arizona’s win in what was one of the most entertaining playoff games in recent memory to watch, the Cardinals still deserve credit for a tremendous effort in the win.

— And finally, there was the Ravens beatdown of the Pats in the early game Sunday.  I’ll admit it — I was fooled by the Pats “mystique” and conveniently ignored the evidence that had been in plain view all season that New England just wasn’t the same team that we remembered as having dominated the NFL for much of the decade.  The end of the Patriots dominance was Plaxico Burress catching that TD in the end zone two years ago — even if we didn’t realize it then.  Baltimore ran over the Pats all day, needing only four completions by Joe Flacco to advance to the next round.

So for going 1-3 this weekend, I’ll give myself the Le Boo — and hope I can right the ship in the semifinals this weekend.  In the meantime, the other big sports news of the day — Mark McGwire’s **shocking** revelation that he used steroids — has left me with a lot to say … but that’s have to keep until tomorrow.  I’ve got to finish with my humble pie first before I tackle that.

NFL Playoffs Week 1 Predictions

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2010 by thelasthonestman

And a hearty welcome to 2010 for everyone here — postings have been few and far between since the New Year rang in, but that will hopefully change in the upcoming week or so.  I have thoughts on the Baseball Hall of Fame balloting to share, just for starters — but everything will have to wait, as the NFL begins its postseason play this weekend.

We're ALL excited about the start of the playoffs

It’s an unusual week as three of the four match-ups in the 1st round are rematches of slaughters games we watched last weekend.  How much should we take those beatdowns into account?  Let’s find out together, shall we?

N.Y. Jets (+2.5) over Cincinnati

You’re going to hear all about how last week’s game for the Bengals didn’t mean anything to them, and that it meant everything to the Jets.  Fine.  But what needs to be remembered is that the Bengals had Carson Palmer and most of the starters in the game into the 2nd half, and frankly, the game resembled a mugging in Central Park more than a competitive football contest.

And frankly, the Bengals have looked like a paper tiger for most of the year anyway, haven’t they?  After their November 15 victory against the Steelers that put them in command of their division at 7-2, Cincinnati went 3-4 the rest of the way, including a narrow victories against Cleveland and Kansas City at home, an unimpressive victory against a 2-win Lions squad, the crushing road loss to the Raiders, and an absolute beating handed them by the Vikings (in addition to a closer-than-expected loss to the Chargers).

Don’t confuse the Jets with serious playoff contenders, but their defense is outstanding and they can run the ball, which they did to great effect against the Bengals last Sunday night.  If Mark Sanchez can avoid making mistakes (granted, that’s a big if), the Jets will keep the game close and cause headaches for the opposing team every time.  The Bengals offense is just not very good; Carson Palmer isn’t who he used to be, and I’m a believer that Cedric Benson is still hurt worse than he or the organization has let on.

It won’t be 37-0, but the Jets will win this game and possibly set themselves up for an intriguing rematch against the Colts next week.

Philadelphia  (+4) over Dallas

The toughest of the four match-ups this week to call.  Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, and the Eagles should patent the “Look fantastic one week, look like the Rams the next” approach, while the Cowboys are still not a team I trust at this time of the year.

However, Dallas deserves credit for turning their season around in the season’s final few weeks, convincingly beating the Saints in New Orleans and the Eagles at home to clinch the NFC East.  Philadelphia, on the other hand, deserves to be questioned for playing so poorly last weekend in a game that meant to much (a 1st round bye waiting for the taking) to their team’s playoff chances.  How can you take a team seriously as a threat to win it all if they can’t come up any bigger than the Eagles did last week?

Answer: you can’t.  But that doesn’t mean that the Eagles aren’t a threat to at least win this week.  While Dallas has seemingly had their number this year, and while Tony Romo has been playing like a completely different quarterback than the one we’ve seem stumble and fumble his way through Decembers past, I’m not convinced that every rematch this week is going to follow Week 17’s script — and this is the one I think has the best chance to deviate, if for no other reason than the inconsistency both Philly and Dallas is more than capable of showing.  One thing’s for certain, with Wade Phillips and Andy Reid on the sidelines, the potential exists to have a boneheaded coaching move be the difference in what should be a closer game than last week’s blowout.

Dallas is still a threat to go all the way, but this week will be scary for them.  Philly covers, even if they don’t win.

New England (-3) over Baltimore

Did this injury doom the Patriots chances of making a run?

Another tough match-up to call, as the Patriots enter the playoffs reeling from the devastating injury to receiver Wes Welker.  Before that happened, I thought New England was starting to finally round itself into playoff form and loomed as a dangerous X-factor on the AFC side of the playoff brackets (of course, that line of thinking would have required believing that the Pats would somehow remember how to actually win a game on the road.  Now, with Welker out, they’re finished, right?

Maybe, maybe not.  Julian Edelman is now the man in the spotlight for New England and in the impossible position of replacing one of the NFL’s best possession receivers; at least for Week 17, he didn’t look too bad in the role, but New England still takes a huge hit here.  However, Brady and Moss are still as dangerous as ever, the running game has been resurgent, and the defense has played better of late.  And this week’s game is, at least, at home.

And I haven’t been a fan of the Ravens all season.  Baltimore shoots itself in the foot far too often to be taken as a serious playoff contender, whether it’s committing penalties (and complaining so loudly about them, which isn’t doing anything but adding to the likelihood ticky-tack infractions will be called — while that’s not fair, that’s still the way it is) or John Harbaugh’s somewhat befuddling play-calling at times (a guarantee here that, at some crucial point in the game, the Ravens best weapon, the multi-talented Ray Rice, will be standing on the sidelines with his helmet off — and not because of any injury).

Baltimore is one of those tantalizing teams — they should be better than they are, with their 9-7 record — but they’re just not.  And I don’t think they will be on Sunday either.  The Pats advance.

Green Bay (pick ’em) over Arizona

I’ve already expressed my disdain for the Cardinals efforts earlier this season, and last Sunday’s effort at home against the Packers only confirmed my belief that this postseason will not be a repeat of the team’s magical run last year.  Again, you can forget about the whole “game didn’t mean anything” explanations — the Cardinals have had a nasty habit over the last two years of simply not showing up to play in plenty of games, including ones that do mean something.  The Arizona starters didn’t play for very long last week, but even when they were on the field, the Pack was whipping up on them like the bully that took you lunch money back in grade school.

It doesn’t help matter for the Cardinals that they suffered two crucial injuries in the “meaningless” game against Green Bay — Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (who will reportedly be fine for Sunday’s tilt) and Anquan Boldin (who may not be on the field due to his ankle injury).  In yet another boneheaded coaching move (alongside Jim Caldwell’s decision to play his starters in the first half of the game against Buffalo), Arizona all but waved the white flag before the game’s opening kickoff, yet kept certain starters in well into the game.  While oft-injured quarterback Kurt Warner sat, Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald were still unbelievably on the field, even as the game was turning into a joke — and Boldin (who’s battled his own injury problems in 2009) was hurt as a result.   Either treat the game as a joke exhibition and keep your key players on the sidelines the whole way, or play the game normally and try to win — don’t attempt to do both.  Staying in the middle of the road usually leads to exactly what happened with Boldin, and it’s inexcusable idiocy from the Cardinals coaching staff.

Even if Boldin were at 100%, though, I’d still like the Pack here.  Warner hasn’t look right all season, Arizona still has trouble running the ball at times, and Green Bay is simply rolling into the playoffs.  The Packers offense is starting to hit on all cylinders (largely due to a healthier offensive line, a resurgent Greg Jennings, and ridiculous production out of quarterback Aaron Rodgers), and their defense has the playmakers to keep the team in games.  This postseason may well be the coming-out party for Rodgers; while his fantasy football owners knew how good he was already last season, a lengthy playoff run for the Pack may let the rest of the nation in on the secret.

Green Bay wins this one, and I don’t think it’s even going to be all that close.

Enjoy the playoff action this weekend, and we’ll be back here on Monday for the Le Boo Playoff Coaching Move for Wild Card Weekend.

Monday Night Horror Show

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , on December 15, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Facing off with this guy would be less frightening than watching the Arizona Cardinals play on Monday night

Sometimes in sports, it’s just easier to go through the teams you know can’t win it all rather than to try and figure out who can.  Tonight’s debacle by the Cardinals tell me that Arizona is going to be one of those who’re in the former and not the latter.

Sure, they were inconsistent at times last season — but that was supposed to be a thing of the past this year after their breakthrough in the playoffs in 2009 en route to a trip to the Super Bowl.  But they’ve been just as maddening to watch this season, mixing in solid, inspired play with sloppy, mail-it-in performances like tonight’s that make them look like they’ve somehow switched uniforms with a team like the 49ers, who spanked them easily in a game that should have marked a division title clincher for Arizona.

With San Francisco’s upset loss against Seattle last week, Arizona had opened a comfortable lead in the division — which was possibly the worst thing that could have happened to them.  With seemingly easy match-ups against the Lions and Rams still on the schedule, it was easy to see once Monday’s game started that the Cardinals weren’t prepared to play San Francisco at all, on either side of the ball.  Seven turnovers?  Those type of performances from the Browns or the Rams might be expected, but not from a team that fancies itself a contender.

Granted, the Cardinals are still going to the playoffs and in all likelihood still winning the division — but with a chance to wrap things up early and give themselves an opportunity to challenge for a first-round bye, Arizona instead crapped the bed on every level possible Monday night, mailing it in during a performance that suggests that they took this game as seriously as Tiger Woods takes his wedding vows.  Penalties, turnovers, and generally sloppy play were all on display in San Francisco, as Arizona embarrassed themselves with a pathetic performance that suggests that anyone in the desert who’s expecting a repeat of the team’s run in the playoffs last year is going to be severely disappointed.

It’s clear to me that there are only two teams in the NFC that look — and play — consistently like a Super Bowl contender, and it’s the Saints and the Vikings.  The Cardinals, at least for this year, are little more than pretenders to a throne they don’t deserve to sit on.  Their putrid play on Monday suggests they think the same thing themselves.