There has been a lot of debate this week over where the Cardinals fit in the power rankings. Are they still a top five team after the Pittsburgh loss, or did they tumble even out of the top 10? I won't waste your time on where I think Arizona ranks, because it will probably change by kickoff Monday night once all of the weekend games are complete.
The bigger question is where is this team headed?
The Cardinals are 4-2, looking completely dominant in four wins, and utterly perplexing in two losses, especially last weekend. Every great team has an off day, because no one goes undefeated -- save the 2007 Patriots in the regular season.
Their "off" day came at the worst time -- in the Super Bowl. The Cardinals "off day" ostensibly was against the Rams, when Arizona trailed for the entire game, and was its own worst enemy.
The Steelers loss, at least to me, was different than their defeat against St Louis. The Cards totally outplayed the Steelers in the first half and it seemed as if they were in control. Even when they got behind in the third quarter, I still got the sense they would make enough plays to beat an inferior opponent. Even though, as in the Rams game, the Cardinals turned the football over and struggled in the red zone, last Sunday still had a different feel. It's as if some of the players took the Steelers lightly, especially when Landry Jones came in the game at quarterback. The Cardinals took St. Louis seriously from the opening kickoff. But Arizona trailed after two minutes, and playing from behind against a great defense is always a challenge.
Despite the confusing start to the season, the Cardinals are still atop the division. Bottom line is where the Cardinals go from here. In my opinion, they're clearly the best team in the NFC West, with the Rams the most likely challenger. The Cards should win the division, but if that happens, what will be this team's calling card heading into the postseason? Will the early losses define them as a team that loses focus? Or will they serve as a wakeup call to play with championship level consistency?
At the end of the regular season, we will see with much clearer vision. We will look back at whether those games were just stumbling blocks along the way to a great year, or warning signs that this team was going to lack the consistency that championship caliber teams have. I lean towards the former, rather than the latter. Time will indeed tell.