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In A Bunched-Up NFC West, Cardinals Still In The Mix

Even after slow start, Kingsbury confident in team trajectory

The Cardinals are a game behind the Seahawks for first place in the NFC West.
The Cardinals are a game behind the Seahawks for first place in the NFC West.

Kliff Kingsbury joked on Friday his big plans for the minibye would be sleep. Monday, the coach acknowledged he could always need more.

But he and the Cardinals coaches were back to work, planning for Sunday's game in Minnesota, and aware how -- no matter how rocky the season has started -- there is still much to play for.

Many teams across the NFC, including division rivals, have similar situations. Outside of the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles (6-0), the surging New York Giants (6-1), Minnesota Vikings (5-1), and Dallas Cowboys (5-2), many conference teams have records similar to the Cardinals.

That includes Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) and Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers (3-4).

The Cardinals' 2022 start has not been ideal, with a 3-4 record through the first seven games this season. It's entirely different from last year when the Cardinals were undefeated after seven weeks on top of the football world. But it doesn't end any hopes, either.

"Across the entire NFC, there are really good teams, really good quarterbacks, all hanging around the same record and battling it out," Kingsbury said. "Last year, we were 7-0 and didn't play very well down the stretch. Hopefully, we can flip that and be better later on."

The conference largely remains to be decided, and there are still some questions whether some of the teams at the top can maintain their pace. The NFC West race is more of a morass; the Seahawks lead with a 4-3 record. The Rams are 3-3 and the 49ers are 3-4, and the Cardinals still have four games left against those teams.

"As we know from last year, through experience, that the teams that finish strong are generally the ones at the top, so there is plenty of time to play football, and obviously one week at a time," GM Steve Keim said during an appearance on Arizona Sports.

Kingsbury believes the offense is going in the right direction especially after DeAndre Hopkins' return. The team also can embrace 10 days of living off a win, a good vibe that hopefully will carry them through a week of practice.

"You never know in the NFL how it's going to go," Kingsbury said. "There's a lot of football left to play and it's really who gets healthy and hot late usually ends up in the big game."

The impressive win over the Saints on "Thursday Night Football," coupled with the weekend break, is what Kingsbury hopes can turn the season.

"I like what I'm seeing," Kingsbury said. "I think a lot of the adversity has helped us build some character throughout the first seven weeks, and hopefully, that's on display moving forward.

"We had a different look in our eye on Thursday, and hopefully, that continues."


Kingsbury said he's not sure if running back James Conner (ribs) and offensive lineman Rodney Hudson (knee) will be available this week against the Minnesota Vikings. But the head coach did express some optimism.

"It'll be close from what I've heard," Kingsbury said.

Kicker Matt Prater (right hip) is progressing, according to Kingsbury, but the team won't know his status until later in the week.

The top images taken by the Cardinals team photographer during the 2022 Week 7 regular season game against the New Orleans Saints, presented by Earnhardt Auto Centers.