The Phoenix Suns are going for the first NBA title in the franchise's history, one that dates back to 1968-69.
Center Deandre Ayton threw down the game-winning alley-oop dunk, or what is being coined the "Valley-Oop" reminiscent of the "Hail Murray," to end Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday. The Suns have a 2-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Clippers, another team playing for their first ring. Phoenix is six wins away from glory.
Arizona Cardinals players are taking in what it's like to be in a town when a team is stomping towards a shot at the trophy. There's excitement. Stores are decorated with orange and purple lights and balloons. A Suns jersey appears to be the most popular item of clothing. Cardinals players have previously mentioned that it gives them motivation to keep this "energy" going in the fall.
The Cardinals franchise is technically not championship-less, as the Chicago Cardinals won a title in 1947. But, that was before team relocations to St. Louis and then Arizona; and two decades prior to the Super Bowl's debut.
There are 12 NFL teams that have never won the Super Bowl. The Cardinals, Lions, Vikings, Bills, Chargers, Titans (Oilers), Falcons and Browns are the eight that have been around since the first one.
With the Suns battling the Clippers for a rare opportunity, NFL Media's Adam Schein compiled a story on which Super Bowl-less teams have the best shot to end their droughts this season.
He placed the Cardinals fourth, behind the Bills, Browns and Titans, respectively. All three of those teams made the playoffs in 2020, while the Cardinals fell one game short.
Schein's notes on the Cardinals:
The defense is ready to rock, with J.J. Watt joining a healthy Chandler Jones to rush the passer. (Now the Cardinals just need to get back on the same page with the latter.) And I loved the first-round selection of Zaven Collins, who gives Vance Joseph another versatile disruptor on defense.
But of course, Arizona's calling card remains the high-flying offense. With Kyler Murray heading into Year 3 in Kliff Kingsbury's offense, it's time to rock and roll. It's time to enter the MVP discussion. The receiving corps is deep and talented, starting with DeAndre Hopkins. The offseason additions of veteran A.J. Green and rookie Rondale Moore were perfect. This Air Raid is about to explode! And Steve Keim told me on SiriusXM Radio that he is a big believer in Chase Edmonds running the ball. A lot of fantasy types have been begging for Edmonds to get the rock more consistently. While free-agent addition James Conner brings a physical dimension to the backfield, Edmonds is a playmaker who could enjoy a career year.
I expect the Cardinals to make the playoffs; and once there, they have a real chance to make a run.
Optimism mixed with a challenge.
The "Air Raid" did not fully come to fruition last season as Arizona was just 17th in the league in passing yards and 14th in passing Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). Murray hurting his shoulder against Seattle in Week 11 and therefore running less often hampered the offense's production down the stretch.
But, another year of Kingsbury adjusting to the NFL, Murray growing as a player and the several offseason acquisitions provides potential for growth.
The Cardinals had a top-10 defense last season in DVOA, so if the offense follows suit, they will be quite difficult to put away.
Plus, the NFC appears to be filled with competitive teams full of question marks. Will Aaron Rodgers suit up for Green Bay? What will the 49ers look like after an injury-plagued season and a potential quarterback competition? Are the Saints out of contention without Drew Brees and will the Buccaneers's strategy of "running it back" work?
The Cardinals have a fair share of questions as well, and Vegas Insider gives them +4000 odds to win the Super Bowl, which is 18th in the league.
Coincidentally, the Suns also had +4000 odds to win the NBA Finals entering the season.