The Arizona Cardinals have lost two straight games and have done so in very ugly fashion. They showed absolutely nothing offensively in either loss and didn't score a point in the final three quarters of their last win. Their defense was gashed by the Atlanta Falcons for 500 yards, including two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher.
But despite the recent struggles, Arizona remains atop the NFC as the number one seed at the moment. If the season ended today, they would have home-field throughout the playoffs.
The issue is that the Cardinals don't feel like a first place team. They don't look like a playoff team. They have been made to look like a bad team. Against Seattle on the road, it is understandable. Against a Falcons team that really isn't that good? There's the issue.
Atlanta was supposed to be the game where the offense got better after seven scoreless quarters against the Lions and the Seahawks. After all, you can credit two very talented defenses for shutting down Arizona's offense. But when Arizona's offense is shut down by the league's worst defense? That is when concern creeps in.
When you add to that the fact that the Arizona defense, lauded as one of the toughest in the league, was shredded by the Atlanta offense, that concern might elevate to panic.
Do you think the Cardinals' offensive struggles will end? The Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers are all in the top 10 in the league in yards and points allowed. St. Louis held Peyton Manning and the Broncos to seven points. While they have been inconsistent, there is no doubt they are a tough matchup for the Cardinals, especially on the road on a short week (they play next Thursday night).
The Cardinals started 9-1, but now at 9-3 and with the schedule that remains, you can look at the schedule and see a real possibility where the Cardinals lose every single one. Do you remember when the Cardinals started 4-0 in 2012 and ended 5-11? Imagine starting 9-1 and ending 9-7 and out of the playoffs. There has never been a team in the history of the game to start 8-1 and not make the postseason.
That isn't to say that will happen. It just shows how things have changed. It was just a couple of weeks ago we were talking about the possibility of a Super Bowl team and posing the question, "Who can beat the Cardinals?" Now we're talking about not losing it completely.
Head coach Bruce Arians said recently the situation isn't dire. It isn't the end of the world.
"The sky has not fallen yet," he told reporters on Monday. "We're still number-one and we're playing at home. We need to stay there this week, and just take it one at a time."
No, the sky has not fallen. But if you pay attention, it is coming down. They need to turn things around in a hurry.
The Cardinals had a cushion in the NFC. They didn't really have any desperation. That cushion is officially gone. Arians said, "there should be desperation in every game."
Now it won't have to be fabricated desperation. The desperation is real. Seattle is playing at a high level now that they are healthy. They aren't going away. Green Bay might not lose again.
The game this weekend against the Chiefs is key. They are at home against a team that should be a good matchup. They don't throw the ball down the field. They run. Arizona stops that. Kansas City is stingy defensively, but playing at home should be the difference.
This is desperation time. If the Cardinals lose again, it might still be a little too soon to say the sky has fallen, but it will be awful close to the ground.