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Dare To Dream: Does an underdog mentality “favor” the Arizona Cardinals?

The disrespected franchise enters another offseason underrated once again, but could that be a good thing?

NFL: Super Bowl LIV-NFL Honors Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Underdog movies happen all the time. Especially sports ones.

A Knight’s Tale

Little Giants

The Mighty Ducks

Miracle

Heck, let’s not forget maybe the best underdog movie of them all in Rocky.

The concept of a little guy taking down a mighty evil enemy is inspiring because it tells the audience of that narrative that “even you, small as you are, can do something big like that”.

It’s why SBNation has featured an entire week dedicated to the Underdog.

And you know what?

Who better to talk about an underdog than with the Arizona Cardinals.

Some might look at them as a laughingstock of the league, as they’ve had the longest drought in sports with no championship and have the 31st winning percentage of all NFL teams.

Teams #30 and 32, the Jaguars and the Buccaneers? The Cardinals have played TWICE as many games as the Bucs have and THREE TIMES as many games as the Jaguars in totality.

Even moreso, the team’s odds have been stacked against them in ways that weren’t just on the grassy green gridiron.

A move from Chicago to St. Louis that saw the team’s first glimpse of success in the 70’s be cut short due to injuries, followed by a move to the desert playing in a rented college stadium with blistered bleacher bums and players unable to sign a second deal or unwilling even if the team drafted someone who wasn’t a bust. Or they couldn’t pay the $ to keep them as it were.

Doesn’t that, in essence, make the sounding of an ultimate underdog sort of story, after all?

Perhaps that’s why the team, down with seconds to go, found such gumption from a last second pass by Josh McCown to knock the Vikings out of the playoffs that a city-wide vote to build a new stadium eeked by that, in essence, likely saved the team and brought them into a competitive station amodst their peers.

Perhaps that’s why that magical 2008 run where “the worst playoff team of all time” rode a beat-up formerly washed up quarterback with a mishmash of talent and pieces that hit a few lucky breaks and was 2 minutes away from a Lombardi, stuck out so much to people around the NFL.

It even sticks out to Cardinals fans who reminisce about that playoff series following a “meh” 9-7 season in which Arizona lost a game once 49-7. Talk about your inspirational comeback story.

Perhaps that’s why the Cardinals’ 2015 season, one in which many people picked them to struggle following Carson Palmer’s torn ACL (despite a 9-1 start the year before) in which they went 13-3 with multiple late comebacks, including the magical comeback by Larry Fitzgerald seemed to be fitting with the end of a shovel pass...and why many were rooting for them against the #1 seed before they were blown out.

Well?

The Cardinals have been back at it again....only this time it’s not a comeback in a season or in terms of expectations but rather how far they’ve had to come from sinking back to the depths they swore they’d never see again in the 2018 season. They’ve taken a wild and crazy story of a QB who was “too small” and a coach whose hiring was mocked as he never had a winning record and have turned a 5-10-1 start with an offseason of trades and praise for their picks into some momentum.

And yet...they still aren’t being given enough credit.

The consensus for the Cardinals next year is that they’ll still probably finish in 3rd in the division. And playoffs? The win totals and O/U have them on the outside looking in, somewhere around the 9th best team in the NFC.

The fact that the San Francisco 49ers are being seen as a future Super Bowl slugger in this upcoming year DESPITE how often the post SB-hangover seems to creep up is....interesting. And maybe a bit shocking given how the Niners saw a few of their best players walk out the door.

Seattle, meanwhile’s been given the benefit of the doubt. Sure, they’ve earned it after all these years but the looming question marks of a team that’s won more than any other more recently in the NFC is staring hard at some of their dwindling defensive talent and an offense that’s dangerous (pun not intended) but still can’t seem to find their way past the Arizona Cardinals at home in a must-win situation. Just like the old days, eh?

Meanwhile the Rams seem to have followed up their super bowl hangover with a second bender of their own and there’s plenty of questions as to if they can even look like a playoff contender by halfway through the season. Add in Arizona’s 4th place schedule this year and there’s a reason why some are picking Arizona to be a “surprise” team or a “fun” team.

But know what they’re NOT saying?

They’re not saying that they’re gonna get it done. Or that they’re going to be able to contend for the NFC West.

Heck, most predictions I have read have them losing both of their nationally televised games, which would make it a concise point that the team would have gone since 2016 without a victory in a nationally televised game.

And that one victory in 2016 over the Jets was part of the team’s 2-1-5 nationally televised record and while it was on the heels of a win with Drew Stanton at quarterback against the Niners...since the tie against the Seahawks the Cards haven’t won a game on the national stage.

They’ve been blown out since and have lost their mojo. And THAT I believe is why people are saying “nice things” but still will go “same old Cardinals” in the end.

And given what Arizona’s done...I have to refuse that will be the case. I think Arizona can look at the team they’ve built and the quarterback they have and can punch a hole as early as Week 1 against the Niners on the road.

The doubters don’t get that the Cardinals haven’t ever had something like this. A team with a creative head coach who won’t get stubbornly stuck in the mud paired with a young, dynamic quarterback....and now have offensive and defensive weapons to boot.

And they still only got TWO primetime games, with one of them being a game they’ve traditionally lost at home to Seattle and the other, well, I haven’t seen a single publication pick them to win over Dallas.

Maybe I’m overreacting a bit due to the possibilities, and we’ll see if the Coronavirus has anything to say, but even I can dare to dream a little looking at this underdog staring down an NFL that two seasons ago MOCKED them for taking a 5’10 air raid QB with the top pick a year after drafting a much more traditional style guy.

But this year? Now they look dangerous and people are still giving them odds of finishing in the bottom half of NFL power rankings. Count me out on that.

Cause while ever team can ask the question “why not us?”, the Cardinals each year since 2016 have always had a few reasons as to why you could guess heading in that it WOULDN’T be them.

This year?

They’ve got enough pieces that’s not true anymore. All they need is the fire. And I’m hoping that the team themselves can see themselves probably the same way their quarterback sees the pair of 6’5 320 lb. defensive lineman coming right at him.

Doesn’t matter. Count me out? I’ll make you pay.