Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hugs his interception during the Cardinals' "Sunday Night Football" game in New York earlier this season.
Television is the reason the NFL is such a huge business.
The money flows from the coffers of the networks, the giant financial foundation from which the league is built upon. But it's also the exposure each team craves.
The Cardinals are in a stretch of games in which the kickoff times had already been or could be altered to get greater TV exposure. Such is the benefit of being relevant.
Obviously, there were many seasons when Thanksgiving closed in and the Cards were anything but relevant. Their games meant little in the big picture, unless they were able to knock off a playoff contender. But the Super Bowl changed everything. The Cards came into the season with three national night games – two on "Sunday Night Football" and one on "Monday Night Football."
Now that the Cards have stayed in contention, more markets are on the way.
The Cardinals' game this weekend against St. Louis is a late afternoon start – rather than the early start it's been for years – because Fox needed for a game in that spot, and the Super Bowl runner-up Cards were attractive (and the side story of Kurt Warner returning to St. Louis doesn't hurt).
But that was decided before the season. Word came down Tuesday the Cardinals' game the following week in Tennessee will also be shifted from an early (11 a.m. Arizona time) kickoff to later (2:15 p.m. Arizona time) to work with TV issues. It doesn't mean the Cards-Titans game will suddenly be beamed everywhere, but there were a couple of other games Fox could have turned to for a later start but decided the Cards were worthy.
On the horizon the week after that is the home game against the streaking Vikings, and it certainly looks like – assuming the Cardinals take care of the victory they need to get against the Rams – there is a very good chance NBC will "flex" out of the Dec. 6 game between the Dolphins and Patriots in order to get Cards-Vikings on "Sunday Night Football." NBC's only other chance to get the Favreian Vikings on their air is to keep the Minnesota-Carolina game on NBC the night of Dec. 20, but there might be a better game to flex to that night as well. Besides, getting the surging Cardinals – who, if they beat St. Louis, will have won six of seven – isn't bad either.
The week after that is the trip to San Francisco for "Monday Night Football."
Yes, the Cardinals' profile certainly has changed.
ONE PHYSICAL BEANIE
There was talk about the durability of Beanie Wells coming out of college, and the fact the rookie running back sprained his ankle his very first training camp practice didn't help.
But watching the way Wells has incorporated a physical style into his game seems to have dispelled those questions.
"I think he has taken the challenge from his teammates and from the coaches about being more physical," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "There was a run a couple of weeks ago where he got knocked out of bounds on the sidelines and he got a lot of grief about that. He said to me, 'I'm not going to let that happen again.' "
Whisenhunt said it was possible Wells is reacting to those critics wondering if he could hold up. But Whisenhunt also said he thought it was being around the other running backs and teammates who inspire Wells. "I think that he responds to that," Whisenhunt said.
Going into a road game in St. Louis, the Cardinals have won nine of their last 10 games against NFC West foes.
Linebacker Clark Haggans, who leads the team with 4½ sacks, has posted his highest total since getting six with the Steelers in 2006.
With 92 touchdown passes, Kurt Warner now has the most TD passes of any quarterback who has played for the franchise since moving to Arizona. Jake Plummer had 90 during his Cardinals' stint.
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