Often I feel like the Arizona Cardinals are the most extreme as far as highs and lows of any team I have witnessed in my 30 years of football enthusiasm. It is not just winning and losing of which I speak, but how dominating versus how dominated they can be from one moment to the next, sometimes all in the same game.
For fans, it packs the roller coaster ride so full of surprise twists and turns, the highs feel like Mount Everest and the lows feel like instant deep depression.
Let's face it, they are bipolar.
When things are going well it is exhilarating, and when things go bad the gut-wrenching exceeds normal fandom levels.
This is a team that last year started 7-3, ended 2-4, with three of those last four losses being embarrassing, miserable efforts. Then, they made an improbable run to the Super Bowl, becoming only the second 9-7 team to make it that far, and darn near pulled off the win.
This year, they crushed the Vikings, the most complete team in the NFL according to some, and then got crushed by an average-at-best 49ers team their very next outing. It isn't the 'W' or the 'L' that is so confounding, it is the stark contrast of efforts and execution in each. Against the Vikings they looked like Super Bowl contenders, and against the 49ers they looked like an expansion team.
It is so uncanny, this Cardinals' innate "ability", that it boggles the mind, and it is not just this year's model or last. Although I cannot say I know when this pattern started, it certainly spans at least a few seasons.
So the question to ponder is: Is this a character trait the Cardinals can patent, or is it that I am just more focused on the see-sawness of my favorite team, and that all teams struggle with their inner Jekyll and Hyde in much the same way?
The more I think about, and the more I try to help myself feel better about Arizona being so ridiculously inconsistent, the more I believe that this is not just a Cardinals thing. Although the Cardinals may be "the best" at it, this is an NFL football thing.
Exhibit A. Denver Broncos.
Denver started the year on fire, rattling off a 6-0 record under new rookie coach Josh McDaniels. They beat Cincinnati, Dallas and San Diego in that stretch, all likely playoff teams. After their bye week in Week 7, the wheels started to fall off.
It isn't just that they lost four in a row and now five of their last seven, it is the surprising margin of defeat in some of those games and weak opponents in others that has to leave their fans dumbfounded. 30-7 to Baltimore (7-6)? 28-10 to Pittsburgh (6-7)? 27-17 to Washington (4-9)? Finally, 32-3 to San Diego (10-3)?
Denver is an 8-5 team hopeful of making the playoffs. Sometimes they play well and sometimes they don't, but nothing here would suggest they are necessarily any more consistent than the Cardinals.
Exhibit B. Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay is another playoff hopeful, and have to like their chances with a 9-4 record, but are the only team that the Buccaneers have managed to beat this season.
Exhibit C. Philadelphia Eagles.
Philly is dangerous and can put up a lot of points. They are also 9-4 but barely squeaked by Washington (4-9) and Chicago (5-8) and lost to Oakland (4-9). That has to be a head scratcher for Eagles fans.
Exhibit D. Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle (5-8) really stinks this year don't they? Or do they just sometimes? They have lost games by such scores as 27-3 (Arizona, 8-5), 35-9 (Minnesota, 11-2), and 34-7 (Houston, 6-7), yet they have won by scores such as 28-0 (St. Louis, 1-12) and 41-0 (Jacksonville, 7-6).
So while it may be true that the Cardinals are the most schizophrenic of all, keep your heads up fans. As painful as it can be to cheer for this team, know that inconsistent play is not a patented Cardinals attribute—yet.
What is the reason the Cardinals are like this? Is there one reason or many? To me, it is a complete phenomena, it is a mystery. So everyone, take your best shot at explaining this affliction, because I have no clue, and I'd like to think I have an analytical brain.
This article also appears on Undrafteds.com