Cardinals Hope to Go From Worst to First
Going from worst to first in a division in the NFL is not that unusual, same as teams making the playoffs one season after not qualifying the year before.
Since 1990, there have been at least four teams every season that accomplished the latter. Last year, Buffalo, Green Bay, Minnesota, San Francisco and Tennessee were playoff teams after not participating in 2018.
Oddly, last year was the first since 2015 that no teams made the jump from fourth place to first in their respective division.
Prior to that, in 2015 there was one (Washington), in 2016 there was one (Dallas), in 2017 there were two (Jacksonville and Philadelphia) and in 2018 there were two (Houston and Chicago).
Last season, no last-place teams made the jump to even third place, although the Raiders tied for second but landed third on a tiebreaker.
Which brings us to the Cardinals, a team that has been last in the NFC West for two consecutive seasons, winning a total of eight games in that window. Offseason hype has surrounded this team and many consider them as having the best chance of making the fourth-to-first leap. Of course, part of that justification centers around the other fourth-place teams: Miami, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, the L.A. Chargers, Washington, Detroit and Carolina.
It makes more sense to project enough improvement to qualify for the playoffs, which is made more possible because each conference will have an additional playoff team this season.
Complicating the potential of winning the division is that San Francisco, Seattle and the L.A. Rams won a combined 33 games in 2019, with the 49ers winning 13 and Seahawks 11.
Gil Brandt of SiriusXM NFL radio and NFL.com likes how the Cardinals are progressing.
"Kyler Murray's strong rookie season, which included a not-insignificant number of inspiring wins driven by his ability to make plays with both his feet and his arm, will power a lot of optimism in Arizona," he said. "Kliff Kingsbury did a heckuva job in Year 1, helping Murray's career get off to a promising start."
This offseason, many Cardinals have referenced their belief that "the sky's the limit" for this team. We will learn soon enough whether that's realistic for the 2020 season — that is, if the season plays out at all.