The postseason is upon us, and although the Arizona Cardinals stumbled their way to the finish line, they are still one of 14 teams remaining in the hunt for a Super Bowl.
Now, the Cardinals must make the trek to Inglewood for a Monday night date with the Los Angeles Rams in order to keep their season alive. Arizona split the season series with the Rams, with the road team emerging victorious in each instance.
For fans of the Cardinals and all other teams still alive, there's a newborn sense of hope that their team can make a magical run deep into the playoffs. Pessimism is also present in the minds of each fan base, too.
ESPN's Kevin Seifert gave each playoff team one reason for hope, and one reason for concern as the postseason begins. Here's what he offered on the Cardinals :
Reason for Hope
"The Cardinals finished the season 8-1 on the road. Home-field advantage in the NFL has been shrinking for years, but the Cardinals are one of only nine teams ever to win eight road games in one regular season. When something happens over a period of four months, it isn't a fluke. The Cardinals have won at the Titans, Rams, 49ers and Cowboys, among others. Given those performances, a run through the wild-card bracket doesn't seem as daunting as it might be for other teams. No one should be looking forward to hosting the Cardinals in the playoffs."
Reason for Concern
"The Cardinals' only road loss this season came at Detroit in Week 15, a symbol of their long slump in the second half of the season. After a 7-0 start that had many thinking of them as the likely No. 1 seed in the NFC, they finished 4-6 and in a wild-card spot. Oddly, the worst of that downturn -- a three-game losing streak in Weeks 14 to 16 -- came after quarterback Kyler Murray returned from an injured ankle. Generally speaking, teams that played their best football in September and October can't be counted on to rediscover themselves in January."
Seifert also listed one X-factor while also giving a small peek into each team's first game. Here's both for Arizona:
X factor: "J.J. Watt, DL. After suffering a shoulder injury in Week 7, it appeared that Watt's season was over. As it turns out, however, Watt is on track to return in some capacity for the playoffs. He pulled off a similar feat in 2019 while playing for the Texans. We don't know how close to 100 percent Watt will be, and he wasn't the only player responsible for the Cardinals' hot start this season. But as the playoffs begin, it's worth noting the Cardinals won all seven of the regular-season games Watt played in. His return will be welcomed, no matter how limited his playing time might turn out to be."
First-game outlook: "At Rams (6:15 p.m. Arizona time Monday, Jan. 17, on ESPN/ABC). One of the Cardinals' eight road wins this season came in Week 4 at SoFi Stadium, a 37-20 decision over the Rams. That seems like a long time ago, but as we noted, the Cardinals have played better on the road all season. Still, they could be vulnerable to the Rams' downfield passing game. In their past five games, the Cardinals have allowed opponents to complete 62.3% of passes that traveled at least 15 yards in the air, for six touchdowns and without an interception."