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Win The Day

A Common Sense Approach to Handling an NFL Schedule

NFL: Arizona Cardinals Spring Practice The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cardinals’ new head coach Steve Wilks has been urging his “win the day” mantra on the football team. For good reason. When it comes to building a fortress, the foundation needs to be cemented brick by brick. As the 19th century American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau once advised, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

When the NFL schedule came out last night---it lured all the NFL Nostradamuses out of the woodwork. On ESPN’s two hour long special, the pundits predicted each team’s record and the outcome of every game. There was only one problem---by the time they were finished they had predicted 289 wins for a schedule of 256 games. Thus, their two hours’ toil was nothing more than a fool’s errand.

Within minutes of the schedule release the complainers were out in full force. ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss immediately wrote: “The NFL didn’t do any favors for new Cardinals coach Steve Wilks.”

Here we go again. Some old sheet, different year.

No matter what the schedule is, the Cardinals’ media is going to complain about it. Even worse, so did previous coach Bruce Arians, most heatedly about east coast game times and Thursday night games.

Going back to 2016 when the Cardinals were a pre-season Super Bowl favorite, the NFL seemed to do them the ultimate favor by giving the Cardinals an opening night home game versus the Tom Brady-less New England Patriots. That year the schedulers also gave the Cardinals three home games in the first quarter of the season. What a way to help a team get quickly out of the gates, right?

Well, we know how that game with Patriots went. The loss was so profound that Arians conceded after the season that the first game loss ruined any chances the Cardinals had to contend because it demoralized them so bitterly. Really?

One and done?

Going back to Weinfuss and his national prediction on ESPN, he prognosticates that the Cardinals will be out of contention by October and will limp their way to a 6-10 record.

How can this guy each press conference from mow on look Steve Wilks in the face?

Has Weinfuss not been paying attention?

For starters---the 2018 NFL Draft hasn’t even occurred yet.

Can rookies make a difference?

How about Zeke Elliot and Dak Prescott in 2016?

Secondly, no team’s roster is set yet. Key signings and trades are still in progress.

Thirdly, the whole “strength of schedule” rankings are a farce---why? Because they are going by last year’s records.

Welcome to this year.

Does anyone remember that last year there were 8 new teams (of 12) in the playoffs?

In fact, in the NFC---only one team that made the playoffs in 2016, qualified for the playoffs in 2017. That was the Atlanta Falcons who were the #2 seed in 2016 and then barely squeezed their way in as the #6 seed in 2017.

The 2017 Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles were 7-9 and 2-4 in the NFC East in 2016. In 2017, not only did they qualify as the top seed in the NFC, they won the Lombardi trophy with their backup QB, Nick Foles….over Tom Brady and Patriots, no less.

If last year didn’t prove how anything can happen from year to year in the NFL, what will?

The Jacksonville Jaguars were 3-13 in 2016. In 2017, they came within a last minute TD drive by Tom Brady (AFC Championship game) of going to the Super Bowl.

Go figure.

Lastly, when teams proceed through the NFL schedule---it’s not so much about what team you play---it’s more about where and when you play that team. As we all know, every team is going to have to try to handle the week-to-week injuries to key players. Every team is going to have to handle the rigors of playing 8 games at home and 8 games on the road…which involves handling the travel, the ups and downs of momentum, the aches and pains and the challenges of prime time games and short weeks.

Thus, if you are Cardinals’ fan and you are already worrying about playing the Los Angeles Rams in Los Angeles in week 2 you are already making two mistakes---one---in the immortal words of Denny Green, “if you want to crown their asses, go ahead and crown them.” Two---there is only one regular season game the Cardinals should have their eyes on right now and that is the week one game at home versus the Washington Redskins.

Any time a fan or a team gets ahead of itself, it begs for trouble.

This is precisely why Steve Wilks is coaching his new players to “win the day.”

Carpe diem. Yes, it popularly means “seize the day”…but in more literal terms, as explained by the Roman poet Horace, carpe diem means “pluck the moment.” In other words, open your eyes to discover whatever is ripe in the moment---and then pluck it, like the exquisite full blossomed rose.

“Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero”…pluck the moment, trusting as little as possible in the future.

The reality of today is…as of this moment every NFL team is 0-0. Win the day, Cardinals, win the day! As Theodore Roosevelt once urged: “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”