NFL Analyst Shares Theory on Why Cardinals Aren’t Getting National Respect

Getty Packers CB Rasul Douglas intercepts a pass intended for Cardinals WR A.J. Green on October 28.

Despite owning the NFL’s best record at 10-2, the national media has been slow to embrace the Arizona Cardinals as a Super Bowl contender.

ESPN NFL analyst Mina Kimes has a theory about why that’s the case.

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“I probably would be having a different conversation about the Cardinals if Rasul Douglas doesn’t make that interception,” Kimes said during a Twitter Spaces conversation on “NFL Pretenders and Contenders” on Thursday, December 9.

Yes, that interception — when A.J. Green inexplicably didn’t turn around for the ball in the end zone for what otherwise would have been a game-winning touchdown vs. the Green Bay Packers.

The 24-21 loss to the Packers on October 28 was the only prime-time game to feature the Cardinals through the first 13 weeks of the season. And that Thursday Night Football audience saw Arizona come up short.

“If A.J. Green turns around and catches a perfect throw from Kyler Murray, they’ve beaten the Pack and they’re the unequivocal No. 1 seed, people [would] respect them a little bit more,” said Kimes, a longtime ESPN writer who joined the network’s “NFL Live” team in June 2020.

The Cardinals have a chance to change the national narrative with two prime-time TV appearances in the next three weeks: Monday, December 13, vs. the Los Angeles Rams and Christmas night vs. the Indianapolis Colts. Both games will be played at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

“I think Monday Night Football has the chance to be one of those games you remember,” said ESPN NFL insider Field Yates. “I can’t wait to watch this one between the Rams and the Cardinals.”

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Expectation vs. Reality

When it comes to earning respect, the Cardinals also are battling their history. They’ve made the playoffs only five times in their 33 seasons since moving to Arizona in 1988, most recently in 2015.

The Cardinals also started strong in 2020 (5-2) but stumbled down the stretch (3-6) to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.

“Expectations before the season sometimes affect how you perceive a team and their dominance,” Kimes said.

Arizona also plays in NFC West, which Yates said was “expected to be the most competitive [division], top to bottom, in the NFL.” Most preseason predictions had the Cardinals at or near the bottom of the division standings, and few foresaw a first-place finish.

“Despite the fact that they have the No. 1 overall record in the NFC, despite the fact that they have won seven games on the road all by 10 or more points, I still feel like perhaps the Cardinals are being a bit overlooked with the season they have put together,” Yates said during the Twitter Spaces broadcast.

Kimes admitted she’s been surprised by the Cardinals’ success this season, specifically on defense.

“I continue to be shocked by how good this defense has been, despite losing J.J. Watt, who was playing really well, [and] despite the fact that going into the year, I did not think the secondary was good. They’ve been excellent,” she said. “The whole Vance Joseph-coached defense has been really good, really solid.”

Kimes included the Cardinals in her list of contending teams she trusts most heading into the postseason. The Packers, Buccaneers, Patriots and Chiefs also made the cut. (Sorry, Rams.)

As for gaining respect as a contender nationally, prime-time victories over the Rams and Colts certainly would bolster the Cardinals’ case.

“This would be a resounding win against a balanced contender,” Kimes said of the Monday night matchup with the Rams.

The full Twitter Spaces broadcast is available here:

Playoffs? You Kidding Me? Playoffs?

There are four scenarios in which the Cardinals can clinch a playoff spot in Week 14. The most direct route is completing a season sweep of the Rams on Monday Night Football. If the Cardinals win, they’re in.

If Arizona again falls short in prime time, it still can lock up a playoff berth with:

  • A 49ers loss and Vikings loss or tie.
  • Losses or ties by the Vikings, Saints and Panthers.
  • A 49ers loss, Saints loss or tie, and a Panthers/Falcons tie.

The Packers and Buccaneers also can clinch playoff spots in Week 14. There are no playoff-clinching scenarios for AFC teams in Week 14.

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